When do parents use the advantage
Dialect: advantage or disadvantage for children?
Dialect as a second language
"If a child grows up with dialect and standard language at the same time, this is considered a variant of multilingualism in brain research," says Professor Anthony Rowley, linguist and dialect expert at the Ludwig Maximilians University in Munich. "In science today we know that multilingualism is beneficial for the intellectual development of children." Children who learn Standard German and a dialect will likely find it easier to learn foreign languages later.
Girls and boys up to the age of four usually find it very easy to find their way around different language systems. Regardless of whether the children grow up with Franconian or French as a "second language": They learn from an early age to deal with different language structures and pronunciations, a more extensive vocabulary and different grammatical structures.
At home on several language levels
"Children who also speak dialect notice the difference between spoken and written language very early on," says Rowley. This is so important precisely because even in the exact standard German not everything is written as it is spoken, for example "Vogel" and not "Fogel" or "heute" and not "hoite".
Pupils who grow up exclusively with Standard German sometimes have greater difficulties in converting the oral language into the written form. A study by the University of Oldenburg confirms this: For several years, scientists examined the essays of third to sixth graders. The result: children speaking dialect made 30 percent fewer spelling mistakes.
Dialect and Standard German: Both are important
But people should be able to switch between dialect and standard language, depending on what is appropriate for the situation. Those who cannot "switch" may be seen as "village idiot", provincial and embarrassing. So what if a child grows up speaking exclusively in dialect and does not learn High German? Professor Rowley thinks this is unlikely: From kindergarten age at the latest, the child's language will also develop outside of the parental home: in daycare or kindergarten, in a restaurant, at the doctor's, with relatives or friends. "One can assume that actually all dialect-speaking children grow up with both languages," says the linguist. At least passive standard language skills are a prerequisite for every German child. Just through television, radio or radio plays - children are constantly coming into contact with High German.
Promote both language levels
However, this should not prevent parents from actively promoting high-level language. Of course, you should make sure that your child can also find their way around in High German. You can specifically support this by reading or singing every day. In addition, parents can set an example of when dialect - for example with friends - and when standard German - for example at the doctor's - is appropriate. Dialect children usually manage to easily switch between the different language variants.
It can become problematic when parents who actually speak dialect constantly try to avoid dialect towards their children. "These parents then usually speak a very wooden official German that they believe is High German," says Rowley. The language often sounds stilted and artificial. If the little ones take on this, it could limit their language skills rather than help them.
The dialect is also always an expression of their own identity and offers children the opportunity to express their feelings and thoughts in different ways. An additional, authentic regional vocabulary is good for understanding the language and gives the children a better feeling for language. That is why language educators like Dr. Rupert Hochholzer from the University of Regensburg or dialect associations in Germany specifically at kindergartens in order to promote the acceptance and appreciation of the dialects among the teachers.
Some scientists even say: Dialects promote creativity and abstract thinking. "Dialects have a lot of figurative idioms that make the spoken language come alive," says Rowley. So in Bavaria a surefire thing is a "gmahde Wiesn" (= mowed meadow). And in Cologne people complain about a messy room by saying: "Do not finge sibbe cat kei Müüsje in it aries!" (= Seven cats cannot find any mice in there.) Conclusion: Standard German can be gained through knowledge of dialect - if you can do both.
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