Parents considering a bilingual education for their child recognize that there are advantages of learning more than one language early in life, because they believe that bilingual children can be aware of different point of view of the life and that there isn’t only one point of view or one procedure to success in life and achieve their dreams.
What many don’t realize is that children educated within balanced bilingual programs develop linguistic, cognitive and social skills that enable them to outperform their monolingual peers. Below are some specific advantages and tips for raising bilingual children.
Interesting Findings on Bilingualism
1. Ellen Bialystok in her 2001 book “Bilingualism in Development: Language, Literacy, and Cognition,” says that bilinguals have “consistent advantages” to understand the nature of language rather than the ability to use language to communicate meaning.
2. A study conducted by Peal and Lambert in 1962 showed bilinguals to be superior to monolinguals in the domain of mental/cognitive flexibility.
3. One interesting advantage of bilingual education was noted in the October 2004 issue of Nature, where researchers found that bilingual speakers had denser gray matter, in particular in areas of memory, language, and attention.
4. Learning a second language provides better economic and employment opportunities.
5. Creates open-minded children by giving them exposure to different cultures.
Julie Harris, a Bilingual Speech and Language Pathologist in Madrid, has 4 practical and helpful tips for raising a bilingual child:
Whatever method you choose to teach languages, stick to it. Although children can learn two languages in what seems like chaos, a reasonable amount of consistency will make their job and yours, simpler. Children are often disturbed when parents switch language patterns.
This does not mean the children need expensive toys or special tools, but they need songs, bedtime stories, and other linguistic stimulation just as monolingual children do-except those bilingual children need it in both their languages. This will mean an extra demand on your time, both to give them this stimulation and to find the books, recorded music and other objects you want.
Children’s Needs First
Children should not be forced into bilingualism if it really does make them unhappy. And it is a myth that children who are bilingual have any significant language delay. Children who learn two languages in a supportive environment are capable of learning them both well unless they have a specific language disorder. A child with a language learning difference will exhibit difficulties whether monolingual or bilingual.
Playing It Down
I always advise parents to take it easy. The more you can make bilingualism seem like a natural and unremarkable part of family life, the more likely it is that the children will grow up to enjoy being bilingual, and the more likely it is that you will succeed in keeping both languages active in your home.
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Written by Laura Babcock and Julie Harris for the Kids Fun Ideas Fair in April 2011 which is sponsored by and organised by Kidsinmadrid.com