Until recently, bilingualism in Spain was inherited, a result of different languages coexisting in the same place, or having parents of different linguistic origins. However, during the last few years, there has been an exponential growth in the bilingual child education. In other words, many tutors and institutions are willing to sacrifice time, effort and resources so that their children grow up in a bilingual environment.
But, why this interest in educating their children in more than one language?
A large percentage of parents who choose this option would certainly respond that languages are a powerful tool for the future professional success of their children. No doubt.
However, there are many other important factors that ought to be sized, let’s choose three of them:
• Bilingual children show greater mental flexibility and increased the ability to understand abstraction and mathematical logic. Also, learning a second language from an early age program synaptic brain connections and facilitates subsequent absorption of other languages.
• To learn two languages is to adopt two cultures. Our children will live in a globalized world, where understanding different ways of life, customs, beliefs, etc. will be essential. Children who have been educated in more than one language will have a clear advantage in dealing with these challenging environments, and, very important, they will be capacitated to identify, assess and defend the idiosyncrasy and values of their own culture.
• Knowledge of a number of languages gives us the ability to understand other dimensions of language, beyond its ultimate use as a means of communication. To speak several languages allows us to comprehend the language as a whole, to reflect on its role, and to consider it as a subject of thought, not simply as a form of expression. Languages are a powerful tool for reasoning, knowledge, creativity… and it’s essential for educational development.
It’s important to highlight that true bilingualism, and where its positive effects are palpable, is where children have been exposed to the other languages from early childhood. During this time, and in particular before the age of 5 years old, is when the brain develops more rapidly and the ability to learn is much higher and effective.
Going back to our most popular reason for choosing bilingual education: Yes, that’s right!, today the ability to speak more than one language fluently is an asset in the workplace, but… today is already history, and in our children’s professional lives the knowledge of other languages won’t be an advantage, it will be an indispensable requirement. Let’s go the mile further, beyond competition at the workplace, and let’s realize that bilingualism is enormously beneficial for the development of our children’s individual and social skills.
For this, and much more, I want my child to be bilingual …whether he works or not.
Jaime Alonso-Iñarra of eduqa escuelas infantiles
Read our blog to know more benefits of raising bilingual children