Promoting bilingualism in children

April 29, 2015 2:48 pm

Bilingualism is an increasingly common phenomenon also among children. In fact, over 50% of the population around the world is bilingual nowadays, according to most estimates. Therefore, more than one language is spoken by people in the frameworks of social, working and family life. This has a direct consequence on the growth and development of children. There are actually more children that are educated in more than one language than monolingual children. This is even more surprising as it happens most of the times without government support, since only 25% of the countries in the world encourage bilingualism and has more than one national language.

In this context, the current bilingualism is the result of social processes and movements throughout the globe, such as migration. The growing number of immigrants makes it a priority to know more than one language. Even when people do not have nor time, nor the intention to lear another language, they get a basic knowledge and understanding of the language that is spoken at the place where they live or work.

Multilingual parents of bilingual children

bilingual_11This reality leads to increasingly bilingual people, and consequently, increasingly bilingual children. However, should people in general embrace bilingualism as it allows children to learn more from their early life on? There is an open discussion about this issue: some parents prefer not to speak their native language for various reasons, because they have been persuaded to believe that speaking to their children in different languages can hurt them socially or at school. Against this claim there are many articles based on researches on the topic of bilingualism and its benefits even for children.

On the one hand, it is suitable for parents to talk to their children in their native language because that is the language in which they are likely to be most dominant and in which they are able to provide quality and consistent language skills. But, on the other hand, it is also beneficial to promote a new language and build a second one, because researches show that children with strong first language skills are more ready to learn another one.

In this regard, everyday natural conversations and family routines, giving basic instructions or explanations, listening to foreign music, indicating different actions, code switching and alternating two or more languages, are considered as acceptable and appropriate ways of learning in bilingual individuals. This is a good strategy to be used and it doesn’t generate signs of confusion, according to some researches.

Nevertheless, an important aspect which must be considered is that children being brought up with two or more languages will need as much as possible of each language.

Multilingualism is here to stay and endure through generation to generation. It is beneficial to promote language learning at an early age. Being multilingual allows children to adopt a more open attitude towards the future through language.

Speaking different languages can mean a lot today. A lesson well worth knowing on this topic is that the sooner children deal with this challenge of modern life, the more likely they will be able to converse with people, to go beyond cultural boundaries and to adapt to life in different places.

“You live a new life for every new language you speak”… Watch the video.

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By Lidia Capitan Zamora. Journalist, web editor and social media expert.

Communication Trainee at TermCoord

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