4 Reasons to Encourage
Bilingualism in Your Child
Without a doubt, we are living in an era when there is an increased focus on connecting with the world at large. Interconnectedness is the norm, and as your child grows older, it’s highly likely that they will interact with people of different backgrounds, perspectives, and cultures. And to help your child navigate the modern world with ease, it may help if they can communicate in languages other than the ones used at home or in school.
Apart from improving their communication skills in a global setting, being bilingual also has other benefits for your child’s character and cognitive development. Over time, these elevated language skills may enable your child to communicate more effectively and be in a better position to tread their chosen professional paths. To illustrate further, here are some of the positive effects of bilingualism, along with the key reasons why learning another language will benefit your child in the long run.
Bilingualism Promotes Linguistic and Cultural Awareness
Learning another language is not just about mastering grammar, syntax, and semantics. If a person is articulate in more than one language, they will have a solid understanding of another country’s culture and heritage. Having this high level of awareness allows your child to effectively connect with other people and have a better appreciation of other cultures in the world.
In a country as diverse as Singapore, interacting with people who communicate in different languages is inevitable. While English is the language that most Singaporean families use at home, research shows that much of the resident population also has a secondary language. Among these languages are Mandarin and other Chinese languages, as well as Malay and Tamil.
Having your child learn at least one of these languages enables them to have a solid grasp of Singaporean history and culture, which also instills a sense of community in an otherwise strange new environment. It may help to check out international primary schools in Singapore that have a bilingual education program that will help your child acquire skills in languages other than the ones they are accustomed to. More than that, a bilingual program is a great way to introduce the concepts of diversity and inclusion to your child. Such programs expose your child to learners who speak different languages, instilling the idea that each individual is worthy of empathy and respect.
Bilingualism Helps Them Advance Professionally in a Global Economy
If you live in a cosmopolitan country like Singapore, there’s a high chance that your child’s career development would involve communicating professionally with people from around the world. Being well-versed in one or more languages allows your child to effectively communicate with other students as well as other schools and universities throughout their academic career. Plus, native-level fluency in other languages is an attractive skill to have on a resume that may eventually set your child up for success in the professional world.
Bilingualism Will Boost Their Cognitive Function
One of the key benefits of learning a second language at an early age is potentially having a leg up in cognitive ability. Some studies suggest that having a bilingual experience enables a person to process information better, which may translate to an improved learning experience and good academic performance. Essentially, bilingual students are able to focus on information conveyed in one language while minimizing interference from the other languages they know. This helps them improve their focus, memory, and retention as well as their multitasking and decision-making skills. In addition, some studies show that bilingualism may help young children develop skills related to conflict management.
On top of that, bilingual children are also known to have developed skills associated with abstract thinking. For instance, some researchers believe that bilingual children are more likely to have the ability to process new situations and take them into context. One potential reason for this is that bilingual children easily pick up language-specific connotations and apply them to various situations, broadening their perspectives on everyday scenarios.
Bilingualism Expands Their Vocabulary
Perhaps the most obvious benefit of being bilingual is acquiring an expanded vocabulary that encompasses different languages. Most linguists believe that people who were raised bilingual are exposed to more words in different lexicons, thus making them more attuned to mastering word structure and learning more complicated vocabulary words. For children who are yet to develop reading skills, bilingualism may help build phonological awareness—the awareness of the sound structure of words. Generally, phonological awareness is believed to be a foundational skill that plays a big role in word reading.
Establishing Your Child’s Bilingual Identity
Children can develop bilingualism in school, but you can reinforce it even further by encouraging bilingual communication at home. For one, you can play games with your child in another language—be it your family’s heritage language, English, or another language you want them to acquire. It may also help to converse with your child often in these languages to get them used to articulating their thoughts or code-switching as necessary.
If you have relatives back home, you can ask them to call regularly and converse with your child in your mother tongue. Lastly, you can use a variety of media such as age-appropriate books, music, TV shows, and movies that may entice your child to speak, listen, read, and write in other languages.
Learning two or more languages often helps children learn at school because it helps them to develop their problem-solving, multitasking, creativity and flexible thinking skills, as well as helping develop their focus. In addition, learning more than one language at the same time will not affect how soon your child learns to speak. Children exposed to more than one language from birth rapidly become native speakers of all their languages.
Ultimately, there are many ways to help your child adopt another language through which they can fully express themselves. Whether it’s your family’s language back home or an entirely new one, mastering another language may help your child grow into a more competent, mindful, and well-rounded individual ready to traverse an interconnected world.
About the Author
Crizel M. Carbellido is a freelance writer and a teacher by profession. She spends a lot of time studying how technology drastically transforms lifestyles and communities. Outside the office, she keeps herself busy by traveling across different towns and cities and she loves to dance and sing to her favorite Rihanna songs.