Benefits of Raising a Bilingual Child
Growing up in an English speaking country where everyone I knew spoke English, I never knew the benefits of being bilingual. There was never a reason for me to learn another language. My family spoke English and my friends spoke English. Everyone I knew at school spoke English, so what was the point?
It was only when I started travelling, meeting new people, and teaching English to foreigners, that I realised how beneficial it was to know more than one language. Yes English may be the most common language to learn if it is not your mother tongue because it is the most widely spoken. But there are many other benefits of raising a bilingual child, not matter which language it is.
So why do parents choose to raise bilingual children?
Family Language Benefits
Firstly, it may actually be a need within the family. It may be because each parent speaks a different language. Eg. One parent speaks Italian, one parent speaks English and neither parent speaks the other language well, therefore they speak in their mother tongue to the children following (OPOL).
Or it may be that both parents speak the same language, however live in a community where the common language is different. Eg at home the spoken language is Italian, however the community language is English, (MLAH). Therefore to be able to go to school and communicate with other children they need to learn the community language.
In these situations the families don’t always have a choice in bringing up their children bilingual, it is a necessity. Some families however, choose to bring their child up bilingual.
Many studies suggest that bilingual children tend to have a higher concentration and are better at working through distractions while doing their school work. Because they are having to switch from one language to another constantly, whether it be at home between parents, or from home to social situations, they are practicing their decision making by constantly choosing which words to use.
Research has shown that bilingual children perform higher on average on tests that involve multi-tasking, creative thinking or problem solving.
Bilingual children are usually more adaptable to new environments, meeting new people, and stepping out of their comfort zone. Because they are already used to communicating in different languages, and most of the time aware of different cultures they tend to be more open minded when it comes to engaging with other children from other cultures and backgrounds.
When meeting children who have a different skin colour, or who speak another language, they tend to be curious instead of shying away from something different. It helps them to make new friends, and build strong relationships with other children from diverse cultures.
Being bilingual increases employment options. Languages are an attractive skill to have on the resume, and it can help them stand out from other applicants when applying for a job therefore they will have more chance of getting hired.
A growing number of industries are seeking employees who speak a second language. Though English is the language primarily used in the business world, International companies in particular take preference in employing people who speak certain languages to be able to communicate with their clients and business partners overseas.
Learning a second language as a Child is easier than Learning as an Adult
Learning a second language comes naturally to children as they are learning with an unconscious state of mind. They are like little sponges taking in everything around them without realising. Children don’t take into account the meanings of the words they are saying. They don’t worry about making mistakes when they speak. Instead they simply put words together naturally without really thinking about it. As a result children are more likely to acquire a native accent starting early.
Adults tend to be more conscious when learning and therefore it is harder for them to absorb the information. We think more about the grammar and being correct.
Raising a bilingual child can be a necessity or a choice depending on your family situation. Either way a bilingual child will always have benefits and advantages in life. My biggest regret that I didn’t learn a language when I was younger. Having to learn as an adult is so much more difficult and although I am quite fluent, I will never sound like a native Italian.
“If you talk to a man in a language he understands, that goes to his head. If you talk to him in his language, that goes to his heart.” – Nelson Mandela