As a foreigner living in Barcelona, learning the local languages is an important priority if one wants to integrate and make the most of the opportunities here. The extent to which we apply ourselves may be a matter of personal choice, but for children who are being brought up in Barcelona this is non-negotiable. We investigate some of the issues surrounding language learning. Chrissy Bruce has been working as a speech and language therapist and consultant in Barcelona for about 16 years. Originally from Arizona, she has extensive experience working with multilingual children. (http://www.christenbruce.com) “One of a parent’s biggest concerns is that multilingualism is going to cause a problem in their child’s development, but we know now it doesn’t,” she explains. It seems that there are a lot of myths surrounding multilingualism. Some perhaps arise through looking at it from an adult’s perspective– since for an adult it would be confusing, it may be assumed to be the same for a child. However, children’s brains are very different. Sometimes when you speak a different language you may feel as though your personality is different; perhaps when you speak Spanish you feel more feisty and passionate, or speaking English you feel more grounded. Since language is a key aspect of coding our experience, emotions and personality, this is noticed by both adults and children. It might explain why coming into contact with a second language as an adult can be met by a certain inner resistance. Another factor in language learning is that some people are simply stronger or weaker language processors. Personality also has an effect; risk takers learn second languages better as they are less afraid of getting it wrong.
Language skills very much reflect the level of input received, which is why the “full immersion” approach of living in a country to learn the language works so well. So if you want to improve your Spanish or Catalan, don’t just flick through a text book, find a situation in which you can practice the language in a way that motivates you. Sign up for a course at a language school, get involved in a creative workshop in Catalan, or find a cute Spanish language exchange partner!