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Advantages of Raising a Bilingual Child
WHAT ARE THE BENEFITS OF BILINGUALISM?
“Giving your child an extra tongue is a gift for life!” What kind of gift do you give your child exactly? What life benefits will your child benefit from and is it worth your effort? Make up your own mind by browsing the pros and cons facts below. I’ll start by sharing the most important benefits based on the latest research and the experiences of hundreds of parents and their bilingual children.
Exposure to another culture:
Learning another language has been shown to improve cultural understanding. Being able to talk to people from different countries and cultures exposes the child to different ways of thinking, different attitudes, habits and perspectives. It also opens new doors. As a result, children will soon learn that there is more than one way to everything.
Builds bridges to new relationships:
Communication is a fundamental part of human relationships, and while young children certainly find and use many forms of non-verbal communication to interact and play with each other, language is a key factor in making new friendships possible. Speaking the language of the people around you is a bridge to connecting with them.
Potential Economic Benefits / Career:
Many professions today require knowledge of a second or third language, and those who speak them are certainly at an advantage over those who do not.
More flexible and divergent thinking:
Many studies have been conducted to find out the impact of bilingual education on thinking skills, and an interesting result is that bilingual children think more flexibly. One explanation is that these children learn early that each concept contains more than one word and remain open to possibilities.
Self-identity as a language or cultural bridge:
Bilingual children act not only as a linguistic or cultural bridge, but also very aware their special gift. This awareness carries over into their self-image and forms part of their self-identity, part of how they see themselves and how they define who they are.
Increased self-confidence and self-esteem:
Knowing more than one language helps your child to adapt easily to different language environments, thus increasing their self-esteem and self-confidence.
Of course, there are many more advantages. Parents report that their children learn third and fourth languages more easily, especially when the new language shares a similar alphabet or language structure. Research has also shown that bilinguals develop superior writing and reading skills.
Looking at the entire list, there is no single most important benefit. Different people will judge them differently. However, their combination points to the overall most important advantage: becoming bilingual involves the whole childnot just his/her language:
Being bilingual defines a child’s identity, his sense of security and status, his self-esteem and self-image, and increases the child’s self-esteem.
ARE THERE ANY DISADVANTAGES?
his article wouldn’t be complete if I didn’t point out a few potential compromises you’re about to make as you embark on your family’s journey to bi-/multilingualism. But as you will see, they are rather smaller compared to the list of benefits – some people wouldn’t even call them disadvantages.
Your baby may start talking 3-6 months later
You can expect your bilingual child to start talking 3-6 months later than his/her monolingual peers. Monolingual children are expected to say their first 8-10 words around 18 months and their first 2 word sentences around 2 years. So do the math. If your child does not start talking even after another 3-6 months, it is time to consult a professional and possibly have your child’s hearing checked. Delayed speech development in many children is the result of hearing problems caused by infections, damaging noise levels or trauma – even if a hearing screening at birth shows no defects (see Appendix for Language Development Milestones Checklist).
Your child may temporarily mix languages
It is normal for bi-/multilingual children to confuse languages until about age 4. If the children lack the correct word in language A, they borrow it from language B to convey their message. Until this age there is nothing to fear and no action needs to be taken. However, as parents, we must remain completely consistent and avoid creating sentences that begin in one language and end in another. We act as role models for our children. If the parents mix the languages, the children will do it too, well after 4 years.
Your child will face another academic load: reading/writing
If you want your children to not only speak another language, but also read and write in it, you will need to provide additional instruction beyond the normal school day. Few schools provide it as part of the regular curriculum. Of course, you can choose to teach your child yourself. Whichever method you choose, for at least 9-12 months, your child will need to learn an additional 1-2 hours per week to acquire additional reading and writing skills in the second language.
It will take extra effort from YOU the parents
Raising your child using a second (third, etc.) language is both a gift and a commitment on your part. Unlike ceramics or art classes, which you can take for several months, the decision to raise bilingual children is a commitment for several years. It requires you to work consistently to provide language opportunities for your children, spend time, money, creativity and consistently organize and organize your children’s language expressions.
The last point is really the biggest and most important fact to realize. Commit to raising children in more than one language will cost you extra effort and can sometimes feel like a big burden.
However, deciding against bilingualism is always a shame, especially when it means for one parent that their children will lose their connection to one parent’s heritage and culture. One of the participants in my workshop almost cried because her daughter didn’t speak her language “I felt like she wasn’t my daughter, like she wasn’t ‘mine.’
Knowing that thousands of parents before you have walked the same path will no doubt make you join in their final judgment:
“The benefits are worth the effort!”
If you have come to the same conclusion, check out the e-book for more information “Make Your Child Multilingual! – 10 Steps to Successfully Raising Bilingual/Multilingual Children” from the multilingual network.
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