In today’s increasingly diverse society – where cultures and languages are constantly shifting and changing – raising a bilingual or multilingual child has become less of a want and more of a need. There’s no question that there are multiple benefits to getting your little one started on conquering more than one language, especially when the early exposure to language – preferably before the age of thirteen –is essential in order for fluency to be possible. However, if you’re still on the fence regarding whether or not to pursue more than one language for your child, check out these three benefits and tips for raising a bilingual kid.
- Intellectual development.
Studies have shown that intellectual development is generally greater in bilingual children and that dual language speakers usually perform better on analytic tests than monolinguals. Being able to speak more than one language automatically increases your ability to analyze and grasp difficult concepts. Much like early musical training helps to develop the portion of your brain involved in reasoning; language learning has much the same effect, helping kids to be able to use their minds in a greater capacity.
Teaching tip: Consistency is key. If you plan on embarking on the language learning journey with your child, you will need to be incredibly consistent to ensure fluency happens. Divide your time between languages and make sure you’re practicing with your little one on a daily basis.
- Multilingual learning.
One of the greatest benefits of having a child grow up bilingual is that even once they reach adulthood learning other languages becomes exponentially easier. Sister tongues will be easier to pick up in tandem: a child who knows how to speak French can link their knowledge to Spanish studies, as an individual fluent in Japanese will have an easier time understanding the basics of Mandarin. By raising a bilingual child you are in effect setting them up for the possibility of becoming a successful polyglot.
Teaching tip: Exposure is key. Studies show that your child will need to be exposed to a language for at least 30% of their day in order to effortlessly become bilingual. Make foreign language books and computer games available to them at home and see to it that their classroom is stocked with some basic learning supplies as well.
- Bicultural advantage.
Knowing how to speak more than one language has been shown to boost flexibility and adaptability in children. Due to the variances in languages, bilingual children are better able to manage and understand different cultures and many times blend in much easier than monolinguals. Speaking foreign languages also creates a wider cultural perspective, causing bilingual children to be sensitive to different points of views and ways of life.
Teaching tip: Tenacity is key. There may be a period in which your child will refuse to interact with you in the desired language. Perhaps your child doesn’t see the point in it or is simply succumbing to the majority language they hear most of the time –either way you must stick with it. Regardless of the bumps in the road, know that the payback will be huge later on.
Katie Collom writes on behalf of Language Trainers Online, a foreign language tutoring service specializing in group and one-on-one classes via Skype. Check out their language level tests and other free, online resources on their website or send them a quick inquiry for more information about their personalized course packages.