CHS Blog

Encouraging Bilingualism from a Young Age

Encouraging Bilingualism from a Young Age
Posted on February 27, 2019 by CHS

Are you a parent who grew up learning two languages and want your child to learn multiple languages, too? In an increasingly globalized culture, knowing multiple languages can enrich your child’s future.  However, that’s only the tip of the iceberg; learning multiple languages can create benefits that you never thought of. Our blog will focus on the benefits of teaching multiple languages to your child and how you can encourage bilingualism from a young age.

Some of the benefits of bilingualism include:

Positive Brain Power
Research from The Cognitive Benefits of Being Bilingual shows that those who are bilingual have a better attention span and ability to multitask compared to those who are monolingual. Research suggests that in a bilingual person’s brain, the languages are constantly switched back and forth whenever they hear a word to determine the word’s meaning in two or more languages. This brain activity suggests cognitive benefits which can also delay dementia or Alzheimer’s disease in adulthood and provide improved recovery speed from stroke and lower stress levels.

Connection with Extended Family and Culture
For many families, their extended families, such as grandparents, may have limited language ability in English and are more comfortable using their native language such as Spanish, Vietnamese, Chinese, etc. By teaching your child the native language spoken by extended family members, she will be able to communicate with extended family, hear stories about your family’s past, and be able to enrich herself with the cultural legacy that came from the generations before her.

Expand Job Opportunities
Knowing multiple languages is more important than ever to communicate with those around the world. When a company needs someone to communicate with their remote partners, being able to speak their language will definitely give you the advantage. This will also give you a boost during your job interviews.

Open Mindedness
When you learn another language, your perspective of the world expands. You understand that there is more to the world than just your viewpoint and learn that different cultures may respond differently than yours and that is something to embrace and see as a positive attribute. You will be more open minded to new experiences and look forward to learning more about others.

Encouraging Bilingualism
One of the biggest arguments against learning multiple languages is that many people believe learning multiple languages at a young age will confuse the child and cause delays in their speech. As a matter of fact, it is quite the opposite; children’s brains are flexible enough to distinguish between different languages, and even polite and impolite ways of speaking.

To learn more about the benefits of learning multiple languages, see 12 Reasons Everyone Should Learn Another Language and What are the Benefits of Being Bilingual in the links below.

When raising a bilingual child, there are various ways to teach your child two or more languages. The first method is One Person One Language (OPOL). With the OPOL method, each parent would speak to their child with a different language. For example, one parent can focus on Spanish with the child while the second parent can focus on English. This method is often regarded as the most optimal method as it causes less mixing of language and allows the child to be exposed to both languages regularly.

The second method is Minority Language at Home (ML@H); this approach is used when parents believe that the minority language needs extra support compared to the majority language used in the child’s environment. For example, if both parents are Vietnamese living in California, they will speak primarily in Vietnamese at home with their child while the child can learn English at school and outside the home.

The third method is Time and Place (T&P); the T&P method is mainly used in bilingual schools. This means that the school focuses on one language during the morning lessons while focusing on the other language in the afternoon.

Finally, with the Mixed Language Policy (MLP) method, parents will use the language best suited  for the situation. For example, when helping the child with her homework, the parent will use the majority language and when talking about personal topics around the home the parent will use the minority language.

Whichever method you decide to use, focus on playing, singing songs, reading books out loud, and establishing screen time in the minority language to improve your child’s bilingualism.

To learn more about how to teach your child two languages or more, see Bilingual Baby: How to Teach Your Baby Two Languages, 25 Tips for Boosting the Minority Language for Bilingual Kids, and 5 Steps to Teach Your Child a Foreign Language.

See below for sources and additional information to teach multiple languages to your child.

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