Raising a bilingual child is an endeavor more parents should pursue. Instead of only focusing on your child’s social interaction and comprehension skills, consider teaching your child to learn new words and phrases in a second language too.
By the time your little one enters school, they will be ahead of other kids thanks to their additional language skills. If you need further convincing, consider the following ten reasons why it is beneficial to raise a bilingual child:
1. Keep pace globally
Recent estimates show that there are about 7,000 languages worldwide, and over a billion people speak more than one language fluently. Learning a second language is mandatory in some countries (e.g., Canada, France, and Italy). If you want your child to keep pace with others as they age, raising them bilingual should be a high priority.
2. Easier to learn while young
Learning a second language is far easier for a child than for an adult. You can stack the odds of success in your child’s favor by immersing them in a second or third language when they are young. Whether you read to them in a foreign language while in the womb or use playtime to learn new words in a second language, you are doing them a huge favor by bettering their language skills in their formative years.
3. Increased activity in executive function
Many brain studies show that bilingual adults have more activity in areas associated with executive function, i.e., mental abilities that include problem-solving, shifting attention, and other desirable cognitive traits. Findings reveal that this bilingualism-related difference in brain activity is evident as early as 11 months, just as babies are on the verge of producing their first words.
4. Superior auditory processing abilities
Bilingual and multilingual individuals have superior auditory processing abilities compared to monolingual individuals. Several investigations have compared the auditory processing abilities of monolingual and bilingual individuals. In general, results of studies have reported superior performance among bilingual and multilingual individuals.
5. Facilitates later language learning
Thirteen bilingual college students enrolled in a study had Mandarin-speaking parents and learned both English and Mandarin at an early age. The matched comparison group comprised 16 monolingual college students who spoke only English fluently. The bilinguals were better than the monolinguals at learning Brocanto2, an artificial language (Grey et al., 2017).
6. Bilinguals are bicultural
The experiences gained from learning different languages change the attitudes and beliefs of bilinguals and create an expansion of their worldview. Studies support this, showing that people who speak other languages score higher in tests that measure open-mindedness and cultural sensitivity and have an easier time seeing things from a different (cultural) perspective.
7. Makes immigrating easier
If your child wants to immigrate to another country as an adult, their chances of approval are higher if they are bilingual. Government agencies usually prefer immigrants with a second language who can quickly assimilate into their new culture. Learning at least one additional language is crucial for parents who raise their children with a sense of wanderlust.
8. Improves employment opportunities
Adults who speak a second language have better career opportunities than those who don’t. From job promotions to transfers abroad, employees with a second language are considered more valuable. If you want to set your child up for success, giving them the opportunity to pick up new languages when they’re young is a perk they’ll thank you for later.
9. Economic benefits
A study in Switzerland found that multilingualism positively correlates with an individual’s salary, the productivity of firms, and the gross domestic production (GDP); the authors state that multilingualism augments Switzerland’s GDP by ten percent. A study by Agirdag (2014) found that bilingualism has substantial economic benefits as bilingual persons earn up to $3,300 more annually than monolinguals.
10. Bilingualism has health benefits
Studies show that being bilingual can benefit one’s health. Growing evidence suggests that bilingualism can delay the onset of dementia by five years. Other benefits of being bilingual include things such as faster stroke recovery and lower stress levels.
Are two languages at a time too much for the mind?
Infants growing up bilingual have the learning capacity to make sense of the complexities of two languages just by listening. In a study, an international team of researchers, including those from Princeton University, report that bilingual infants as young as 20 months of age efficiently and accurately process two languages.
They do not think ‘dog’ and ‘chien’ [French] are just two versions of the same thing. They implicitly know that these words belong to different languages.
Teaching your child a second language takes work and dedication. There may be times when they’ll balk and resist your efforts. If you focus on the long-term benefits of raising a bilingual child, you can push through the difficult times and know you’re helping them become well-rounded.