The Benefits of Being Bilingual (9 Tips to get your kid started)
At college, I couldn't place out of the language requirement despite an A+ average in four years of high school Spanish (and a decent accent thanks to friends of the family). First, I struggled with Russian and then doubled up on Spanish to fulfill my requirement. I can't help but think that if I had only started younger, this all would have been a lot easier.
With the schools cutting their foreign language programs, I read to my kids in Spanish, enroll them in private Mandarin courses, and stalk my Latina friends for play dates (okay, and the great friendship, conversation, and food, too).
Is the effort and expense worth it? Should colleges continue to require proficiency in another language?
Are bilinguals smarter than monolinguals? The research suggests that the answer is "yes".
Although some parents worry that bilingualism will confuse children and create language delays, researchers believe this neurological conflict actually helps kids become better problem solvers. Switching between languages encourages a flexibility of mind and increases the ability focus. Bilinguals may even have a reduced risk of Alzheimer's.
The benefits of bilingualism go even beyond boosting brainpower. Bilinguals may be more culturally aware and more comfortable in new social situations, thanks to their ability to switch between two languages. Understanding and speaking multiple languages can also unlock career opportunities in a global world.
Whether you speak more than one language or are a monolingual, you can help your child learn another language. The biggest benefits come from fluency but any introduction provides a foundation for future language learning and the right time to start...is now!
9 Tips to Get Chatting in Another Language:
Get a Head Start
Early exposure aides natural accents and differentiation of sounds. My Philippina aunt loved to tell about how she once went shopping for "sheets" with a short "I". One of the biggest roadblocks to fluency is hearing and speaking sounds not in your native language. Infants, however, have the ability to hear all the sounds of human language but discard those sounds if they do not hear them. When babies hear sounds from multiple languages, they retain the ability to tell the difference between those sounds.
But it is Never Too Late...
Although babies may pick up on accents, older kids will be able to understand, read, and write on a more advanced level. Even adults benefit from learning a language.