Raising a Bilingual Child
There are many misconceptions surrounding raising a bilingual child. Many parents fear it will confuse their child, lead to speech delays, and even hurt their I.Q. and verbal development. These fears have a deep-rooted history in child psychology, but recent studies have found that most of them simply aren't true. Speaking multiple languages has almost no negative long-term effects on a child's learning. In fact, it gives your child what psychologist Ellen Bialystok calls "the bilingual advantage", which helps to strengthen their mental development.
This happens in a number of ways. Part of being bilingual is relying more on your executive controls, which helps with planning, problem solving and performing difficult mental tasks. Since bilingual children do this more, they become more efficient at it, which leads to longer attention spans, better academic performance and helps them to multitask more easily.
Boosting Mental Development
Being bilingual also strengthens a child's mental development in a number of other ways, too. Bilingual children often engage in higher cognitive thinking at a younger age, such as being able to associate multiple words with one object. Speaking two languages also requires their brain to choose the right word while blocking words from the other language, which is great brain training and allows them to process conflicts quicker in other situations. Children who grow up in a bilingual environment also have to focus more on the cues of their two languages, which can also make them better at observing the world around them.
Of course, raising your child to be bilingual will not instantly turn them into a super genius. A recent study by the University of Edinburgh found that, while bilingual children were more developed in some areas, overall the difference between bilingual and monolingual children were minor.
However, even if the benefits of raising your child to be bilingual are not as strong as originally thought, it certainly won't put them at a disadvantage. Being raised bilingual also has a range of other benefits. It gives your child a connection with their parents' heritage, gives them a stronger sense of identity, helps make them more culturally sensitive, makes it easier for them to learn other languages, and can even delay Parkinson's Disease and Alzheimer's later in life.
Are you raising your child to be bilingual? Have you noticed a difference in how fast they are learning compared to other kids? Let us know in the comments below.