Is your child growing up bilingual? Are you wondering about the importance of learning a second language while you’re still young? Let's take a closer look at what it really means to be bilingual in today’s world. 🌎
What are the advantages and disadvantages of being bilingual?
Researchers are yet to understand the full impact of bilingualism on the lives of those who grew up speaking two languages, but what we know so far seems to suggest that the positive effects of bilingualism far outweigh the negative. 💡
For starters, comprehending two languages has been shown to improve a person's ability to multitask, pay attention, solve problems and think creatively. Not to mention its link to boosting working memory performance.
Outside of cognitive development, bilingual people have easy access to two cultures from the get-go, can travel with more confidence and often find communicating effectively and creating social bonds much easier. 🙌
The disadvantages of bilingualism are few and far between but it's worth noting that speaking two languages can bring its own unique challenges.
Bilingual people can experience language fluency delay, accidentally mix the two languages and sometimes find that one language dominates the other.
Lexical retrieval can also suffer occasional lapses leading to the “tip of tongue” (TOT) effect whereby one cannot quite recall a familiar word from their learned vocabulary. 😶
Why is bilingualism important in today's society?
With the rapid development of technology, ease of international travel and growing diversity in residential populations, being able to speak more than one language is hugely beneficial, not only to the individual but to society as a whole.
Being bilingual can also lead to more job opportunities. Having the skills to communicate with foreign clients or customers is an increasingly important quality in the global marketplace and a growing number of companies, especially those with international offices, consider bilingualism to be a real advantage. 💪
At what age can children be bilingual?
Technically, children can be bilingual as soon as they start speaking. As your child's vocabulary expands, so too does their bilingual capacity and the consequenting challenge – the more words they learn in one language, the more they will need to learn in the other to maintain their bilingual ability. 💭
Perhaps a more interesting thing to note is that according to a study by Cognition, an international journal that publishes theoretical and experimental papers on the study of the mind, there is a “critical cut-off age” for learning a language fluently. Their research shows that if you want to have native-like knowledge of a language, you should ideally start learning before age 10. 👶
How does being bilingual affect a child?
Every child is different and there are no blanket rules when it comes to speaking more than one language. The benefits of bilingualism in adulthood are clear but can it pose difficulties in childhood? 🤷
The answer is sometimes yes. Some bilingual children can struggle to develop reading and writing skills to the same level of proficiency in both languages simultaneously – racing ahead in one while the other lags behind which can feel frustrating.
Some bilingual children can also confuse grammatical structure of the two languages leading to mistakes in both languages in the early stages and, if being bilingual is a minority quality in their peer group, they may feel isolated or othered by their perceived dual identity at times. 🧍The main reason suggested for bilinguals’ advantage is their need to process and manage the two languages, which are simultaneously activated whenever one of the languages is used. It's a bit like being able to access two dictionaries at the same time. Pretty impressive stuff. 🧠 Here are our bilingual best bits:
#1 Academic advantage 📚
Studies into executive function have shown that bilingual children can outperform monolingual children in a number of subject areas due to their strong mental skills including working memory, flexible thinking and self-control – all of which can help with overall academic development.
#2 Easy travel and social success 🛬
Being able to speak a second language can make travel more accessible and enjoyable. Conversing with authenticity and engaging in genuine conversation with people around the world will lead to a greater sense of global citizenship and enhanced social skills.
#3 A greater sense of personal identity 🧘
If you are a bilingual household, raising your children to speak both languages may help them to feel more connected to their ancestry. Acknowledging the importance of family culture and heritage is an important part of developing a strong sense of personal identity.
#4 Increased appreciation of different cultures 🌏
We know you don’t have to speak that language to learn about and respect the culture associated with it but being bilingual can allow for a more immersive and direct way into different communities including their customs, ideas, and perspectives.
#5 Access a more exciting job market 👩💻
The global job market is increasingly international with many companies boasting several offices across continents. Being able to speak more than one language will make your child a more useful and desirable candidate when it comes to applying for jobs and opportunities in adulthood.
#6 Becoming multilingual is easier 🗣️
Bilingual people have a better understanding of an ability to analyse different aspects of a language including sounds, syntax and words. This enhanced aptitude for languages in general makes it easier to learn a third or fourth language too!
Overall, the relatively manageable challenges that might crop up in the short-term are well worth it when you consider the multitude of benefits in the long-term. Encouraging your little one to be bilingual is a gift that keeps on giving. 🎁
If you’re interested in your child learning a second language why not find them a private tutor with GoStudent? We have so many experienced language tutors from all over the world. Book your free trial lesson today!