Importance of Starting Bilingualism at a Young Age
Importance of Starting Bilingualism at a Young Age
In the current global age, information is constantly updated regardless of geographical distance. With an internet connection, you can stay informed about events happening in other countries, such as news of a deadly earthquake. Similarly, someone in a different country can quickly share information about a fire in your area. This is possible because people across the world can communicate in a common language.
The popularity of beginning bilingual education at a young age has recently increased. However, parents are concerned about any potential harm this type of learning could cause their child. Is introducing your child to multiple languages at a young age, even from kindergarten, is it a good idea? Let’s explore this topic further to help you make an informed decision.
Why Bilingual Education Matters
The popularity of Bilingualism has grown globally in recent decades as more people use English as a means of communication instead of their native language.
The U.S. Department of Education states, “Learning more than one language is an asset to individuals, families, and our entire society.”
But there are some misconceptions about bilingual education in young children (according to The Hansen Center) as follows:
• Bilingualism causes language delay.
FALSE. Bilingualism itself does not cause language delay. While a bilingual child’s vocabulary in each language may be smaller than average, his total vocabulary (from both languages) will be at least the same size as a monolingual child.
• When children mix their languages, they are confused and have trouble becoming bilingual.
FALSE. Parents’ most common question is whether their child is confused when mixing two or more languages. However, code-mixing (when children use both languages within the same sentence or conversation) is a natural part of bilingualism.
• A person is not truly bilingual unless he is equally proficient in both languages.
FALSE. Most bilinguals have a “dominant language” of greater proficiency. The dominant language is often influenced by the majority language of the society in which the individual lives.
4 Benefits that Bilingual Education Provides
Bilingualism in the early years is highly beneficial for children and offers numerous advantages. Here are 4 key benefits of bilingualism during this critical developmental stage:
1. Enhanced Cognitive Development:
• Learning and using two languages early can improve cognitive skills such as problem-solving, critical thinking, and multitasking. Bilingual children often outperform their monolingual peers in tasks that require these skills.
• Bilingualism improves executive function, including attention control and working memory, which are essential for cognitive development.
2. Improved Communication Skills:
• Bilingual children possess a wider range of communication skills and can interact with a more diverse group of individuals, resulting in increased cultural awareness and adaptability in various social settings.
• Exposure to multiple languages also improves listening skills, as bilingual children must distinguish between different sounds, accents, and speech patterns.
• Bilingual children are more sensitive to nuances in language, better at understanding non-verbal cues, and often better at expressing themselves.
3. Cultural Sensitivity and Empathy:
• Bilingual children tend to be more culturally sensitive. They have a deeper understanding of language’s role in shaping cultural identity and can appreciate diverse perspectives and traditions.
• Exposure to multiple languages and cultures encourages open-mindedness and tolerance, which can help children develop strong interpersonal relationships.
4. Academic Advantages and Increased Job Opportunities:
• Bilingualism can provide an academic edge. Research has shown that bilingual children often outperform monolingual peers in standardized tests, particularly problem-solving, reading comprehension, and math.
• Bilingual individuals have greater access to people and resources, so your children will get information quickly and stay ahead.
• Learning two languages can also enhance literacy skills and make it easier for children to learn additional languages.
• In a globalized world, bilingualism is an asset. Many job opportunities require or prefer candidates who are proficient in multiple languages. Starting early gives children a head start in this regard.
How to Support Your Child’s Bilingualism
Helping your child learn bilingual is a rewarding endeavour that requires consistency, patience, and a supportive environment. Here are some tips to assist your child in acquiring and maintaining proficiency in two languages:
• Start Early: Parents can introduce both languages from infancy. Children are especially receptive to language acquisition during their early years.
• Expose to Native Speakers: Whenever possible, expose your child to native speakers of both languages. It can be through playgroups, classes, or visits to countries where the languages are spoken.
• Multilingual Media: Your child can read books or listen to videos and music in both languages. High-quality, age-appropriate materials can make language learning enjoyable.
• Continue Education: As your child ages, parents consider enrolling them in bilingual or language immersion schools if available in your area. These schools can provide formal language education and cultural exposure.
Investing in your child’s education is one of the best decisions parents can make. Bilingual learning is an excellent option if you’re unsure of your child’s talents. Bilingualism can serve as a strong foundation for your child’s development before their abilities are fully realized.
As language development can vary from person to person, creating a supportive and enriching bilingual environment that encourages your child to use and enjoy both languages is essential. With consistent nurturing, your child can become fluent in both languages and benefit from the cognitive, cultural, and personal advantages of being bilingual.