Being bilingual is definitely an asset in this modern age, what with all the different cultures of the world coming together and the world continuing to shrink because of the ever-growing improvement of communication between cultures. While being able to speak two or more languages is definitely an advantage, it is not an advantage that is widely shared by everyone and is one of the reasons that language barriers continue to exist between many different races and cultures. So having your child learn another language can prove to be advantageous in the long run.
The reason bilingualism is not more common than it is, is because of the high barrier to entry. Learning a language at the beginning of our life when our minds are most absorbent still takes years. Also, children may not always fully comprehend the importance of learning another language and some of them might find it difficult to learn it as quickly as other children. This stems from the fact that some children simply don’t want to learn a new language.
The first time children hear a new word, they immediately make a connection between the experience of the object, and the corresponding word. If a child knows that the funny looking thing made of a triangle and two big wheels is called a “bicycle” then they’ve already made an initial connection between the word and object. Generally children will make this connection in their first language, but from time to time, it is a powerful learning opportunity to have them make this initial connection with a word in the second language. If that object was connected to the word “jitensha”, there is a greater likelihood that they will hang on to that vocabulary word long into their life.
It’s also a good idea to take advantage of the first time they see an object without a name; when they are looking for something to call it. Many babies say “dat” and point to an object to ask what it is called. The best time to teach a child anything, in my opinion, is when they are initiating the learning by asking a direct question like this. That is when they are truly engaged and self-motivated to learn.
With no lack of questions coming from small children, these opportunities are abundant, however sometimes parents get lost in a barrage of seemingly endless questions missing out on a myriad of learning opportunities.