Some believe that multilingual children are whiz kids, although this can be said for only a small number of them. This is because most do not receive their link with languages as an innate gift, but instead as the result of the decisions of their parents or other external circumstances. However, this does not mean that they do not have some characteristics in common with whiz kids.
Firstly, this is because both children with innate talents and those who grow up multilingual have a huge responsibility to fulfil their potential, not only for themselves but also for the people in their environment. This is due to the essential support they get from their parents and teachers. In addition, both groups must receive this help as soon as possible in order to be more successful.
The advantage multilinguals have is that it is not necessary to discover a talent by chance, since their situation is clear from the beginning (except if they come into contact with their languages later because of a family move to a new country or other circumstances) and parents always have some control over the situation. In contrast, innate talent does not always show obvious signs from the start. A gift can skip several generations and there are no guarantees that the parents have excelled in the same field, so they may not know exactly what their child needs from a young age in order to develop this particular talent. If they are lucky, the child’s school will give them a hand, and will give them enough information to be able to meet their child’s unique needs. However, with multilinguals we have the exact opposite situation, since it is possible that at school, their teachers cannot help them in all their languages. This is why good collaboration between parents and teachers is so important, especially in nursery and primary school.
Of course, this does not mean that the child’s environment is solely responsible for their success. A child’s own attitude and creativity also contribute to this, especially because they can only walk the arduous path of their development with the help of their own dedication and perseverance. Those who are born with a special talent try to nurture it in accordance with their own internal demands; however, multilingual children develop their languages to cope with the pressure of the monolinguals in their environment. So, they need us to encourage them, but calling them whiz kids is counterproductive and therefore not recommended.
Gifted young people also need to learn tools and create habits. This makes it easier for them to perform, and without doing so they will not be able to display their abilities. In the case of multilingual children, the acquisition of methodology and getting into the habit of regular work are even more important, since multilingual children do not have the same strong internal motivation as whiz kids. It is true that labelling children as whiz kids is easy when we see their abilities, and it seems forced to mention discipline, curiosity, perseverance and diligence, although without these, talent is meaningless. Furthermore, if a multilingual child continually hears that he is innately gifted, we may distract his attention away from these characteristics. Parents and teachers must instil methods and habits when children are young, without forgetting that this only makes sense if the children understand that sooner or later they will have to develop their own motivation autonomously.