Did you know that the number of U.S. residents ages 5 and older who speak a language other than English has more than doubled in the past three decades? That’s right, more and more parents are raising bilingual children.
Today’s parents are always trying to find ways to improve their children’s future, whether it’s placing them in early music classes or sending them to elite athletic camps.
But did you ever think of getting your child language lessons?
From improved social skills to deeper family connections, learning a foreign language affords children an infinite amount of benefits. We’ve interviewed a number of bilingual parenting experts to compile this list of over 20 reasons why parents should consider raising bilingual children.
“Learning a language is like opening a door to an adventure. We want to enable children around the world to be young global citizens better prepared for exploring their world,” says Amanda Hsiung Blodgett aka “Miss Panda” of Miss Panda Chinese.
Research from York University, titled “Bilingual Effects on Cognitive and Linguistic Development: Role of Language, Cultural Background, and Education,” found that bilingual children show improvements in literacy and literacy skill acquisition. Specifically, children were able to better understand verbal and non-verbal communication.
“Learning a heritage language will help children be proud of their cultural heritage. I think that my son will be more connected to his cultural background. I also couldn’t imagine my child not being able to communicate with his family in France or his Spanish-speaking family members. I feel that if he learns the languages, he will be closer to his family and be proud of who he is,” says Diana Limongi-Gabriele of LadydeeLG.
Developing your child’s self-confidence is extremely important. Studies have proven that bilingual children have more self-confidence. In fact, scientists from the University of Windsor found that people who speak more than one language had higher levels of self-esteem compared to monolinguals or those who only speak one language.
“Being bilingual is so much more than speaking two languages and all the cognitive benefits that come along with that. Being bilingual gives children an entirely different way of seeing the world and stretches their minds to new realms of possibilities,” says Stephanie Meade of InCultureParent.
Students who take foreign languages tend to score higher on standardized tests. In fact, students who studied a foreign language for 4 or more years outscored other students on the verbal and math portions of the test, according to research from College Board titled, “College-Bound Seniors: A Profile of SAT Program Test Takers.”
“Today’s world is becoming increasingly borderless. It’s easy to hop on a plane and arrive on the other side of the world in a day. Or connect with someone face to face over Skype or FaceTime. Global integration is only going to increase, so a child who speaks more than one language will have more advantages when it comes to social, academic and job opportunities in the future,” says Maria Wen Adcock of Bicultural Mama.
Not only will your child be able to connect with others who speak different languages, but they will also be able to make friends during their language-learning studies. There are hundreds of after school language programs in which kids can meet new friends, stimulate their minds, and, more importantly, have fun!
Today’s companies are seeking job candidates who know how to speak more than one language. In fact, research from Korn/Ferry International found that nearly 9 out of 10 headhunters in Europe, Latin America, and Asia say that being bilingual is important for success in today’s job market.
“If you have the chance to give your children the gift of an additional language, please do so – it is a gift that keeps giving for many years to come. It will enable your children to expand their horizons cognitively, socially, geographically and financially,” says Rita Rosenback of Multilingual Parenting.
Research has found that bilingual children score higher than monolinguals in cognitive performance. In particular, children who speak multiple languages have more cognitive control and attention, according to research from Psychological Science in the Public Interest.
According to a study published by the American Academy of Neurology, bilingual adults developed dementia 4.5 years later than their monolingual counterparts. The study also claims that bilingualism benefits individuals with frontotemporal and vascular dementia.
Research from the National Institutes of Health found that bilingual children are better at switching between tasks than children who only speak one language. This is because bilinguals have to constantly switch back and forth between languages, helping them become better multi-taskers.
Your child’s brain is like a big muscle; the more it functions the stronger it gets. Learning a second language exercises your child’s brain, as he or she must memorize new vocabulary words and grammar rules. In turn, your child is able to boost over all memory and retention.
Bilingualism doesn’t just have academic benefits, but it also has societal advantages. Bilingual children have a greater understanding of other cultures and communities, causing them to be more tolerant—a characteristic that is very difficult to instill in a child.
Typically, children do not start learning a language until around middle or high school. Teaching your child a foreign language early in life will better prepare them for school—not to mention give them a competitive advantage when applying to colleges.
When children are exposed to various different languages it opens the door to more creativity. According to research from the University of Strathclyde’s School of Psychological Sciences and Health, bilingual children are better at creative thinking and problem solving.
Is your child an aspiring musician? A study from Northwestern University found that learning a second language “fine tunes” individuals’ auditory nervous system, which will prove beneficial when learning how to play an instrument. What’s more, as mentioned above, bilingualism helps individuals switch between tasks, which is also a key component in playing music.
A child’s ability to focus is paramount both in the classroom and outside. According to research, bilingual children have more mental flexibility than monolinguals, which allows them to focus better on tasks.
Sure, learning a foreign language has its academic benefits, but it’s also fun! Your child will be able to explore a different region’s culture and customs and enjoy conversing with others in their newly learned language.
“Bilingual children develop stronger overall skills in BOTH their primary language as well as their secondary. Because they have so many ways to communicate and are exposed to a wider range of words and expressions (some unique only to the secondary language), bilinguals end up with a higher than average lexicon in their dominant tongue,” said Antonio Centeno of Bilingual Kids Rock.
“Bilingual children develop greater brain plasticity, which makes abstract thinking easier and increases art appreciation,” said Cynthia Lopez of Bilingual Station.
There’s a great misconception that raising your child bilingual can have adverse effects. However, numerous studies have proven that bilingual children have a greater advantages over monolingual children.
Luckily, teaching your child a foreign language has never been easier thanks to today’s technology. So what are you waiting for? Help your child be the best they can be by teaching them a new language!