Monday, June 1, 2009

Benefits of Bilingualism in Children

Have you ever wished that you grew up knowing more than one language? I definitely did. For me, it was about wanting to connect to other cultures. I wanted to travel to Europe and just blend in and be able to communicate with people and enjoy other cultures. That’s why I decided I want to raise my kids to be bilingual, even though I’m not.

Everyone has a different reason for wanting their kids to be multilingual. Maybe your family is from another country, and you want your kids to keep in touch with their heritage. Maybe you’ve already lost that part of your heritage and you want to claim it again. Maybe you don’t know anyone who is multilingual and you think it’s just an important skill to have. In any case, there are many proven benefits to being multilingual, and raising children to be multilingual from birth (although you can start at any age if you already have older children). This is a list from the Multilingual Children’s Association website. They have an abundance of helpful information for anyone considering raising multilingual children. I encourage you to browse their site for more incredible information.

“Growing up with multiple languages is the easiest, fastest, and most effortless way to learn a foreign language. For your baby, it will be as natural as learning one language is to all babies.

· It is easier to learn another language from birth than it is during any other time in life -- baby simply has two first languages.

· Your child will have a head start in school. In most countries, a foreign language is mandatory.

· If your child wants to study more languages later in life, she will have a leg up. The differences in sounds, word order, stress, rhythm, intonation and grammatical structures will be easier to learn. For related languages, such as Spanish and French, the similar vocabulary will make learning especially fast.

· Multilingualism has been proven to help your child develop superior reading and writing skills.

· Multilingual children also tend to have over all better analytical, social, and academic skills than their monolingual peers.

· Knowing more than one language helps your child feel at ease in different environments. It creates a natural flexibility and adaptability, and it increases her self-esteem and self confidence.

· Your child will develop an appreciation for other cultures and an innate acceptance of cultural differences.

· Career prospects are multiplied many times over for people who know more than one language. Helen Riley-Collins, president of Aunt Ann's In-House Staffing in San Francisco, said more than half her clients request nannies who speak another language. "Families who are involved in international business are thinking ahead," she said of her clients, many of whom work in high tech, investment banking or finance. "They want to give their children a head start in business in 20 years."

If your native language is different from the community language, you probably will feel emotionally closer to your baby when speaking your native language to her.”

Now, since I’m not bilingual (yet), there are a lot of resources I have to seek out to help me raise my kids to be bilingual. First, I decided I want to become bilingual myself. The avenue I chose to take for that was to buy Rosetta Stone (Italian). I got a refund from my financial aid at school and used it to make the best purchase of my life! You can ask me for more info on that if you think you might want to buy it. Other resources I’ll use are children’s books in Italian. You can go online and find TONS of children’s books in other languages. It’s a great way to reinforce the language.

For more information on techniques, FAQ’s, and resources go to the Multilingual Children’s Association website.

Are you raising bilingual children? Do you want to? Share your experiences with us! How have you seen the benefits or challenges of raising a bilingual family?

1 comment:

  1. I'm curious about how Rosetta Stone is working for you. I am quasi-fluent in French, but would like to be much more so if I want to teach my children to be bilingual (which I do). So I'm trying to figure out how best to improve my french skills. Do you think Rosetta is best for those who have absolutely no skills in a language, or can you see the benefit for those who already have knowledge of the language?