Bilingual kids have so many advantages. If you can give your child the opportunity, go for it! Do one or both parents speak a foreign language in your family? Or, a nanny or grandparent?
If at all possible, the foreign language speaker should only speak that language to your child. Children can easily learn two languages at a time, so don’t worry – your child will learn English. However, bilingual kids can achieve a proficiency in the foreign language, that others could not achieve even after years of study.
When both parents speak the foreign language, it is most effective to only speak that language at home and when together – for very young children. The only time you should speak English is when you are with English speakers. Your child will learn English from pre-school, from friends, TV and from just being out and about. We are living in an English-speaking country – young children will pick up English with no effort.
For older children, that is not the case and you will have to work at teaching them English, however, for young children give them the opportunity to become bilingual.
If only one parent speaks the foreign language, then obviously when you are together as a family, communication will be in English.
Avoid mixing languages in the same conversation, so your child does not confuse and mix the two languages.
As children get older, they may prefer English for many reasons. They want to fit in with the society around them and they will probably be more proficient in English, so they naturally take the easiest path. Be diligent and insist that they speak the foreign language, as much as possible. You can explain that, they will forget the other language if they don’t use it.
Advantages for Bilingual Kids
Acquiring a second language with perfect pronunciation is an obvious benefit. However, there are more subtle benefits too. Usually, if you have mastered a second language, it is easy to learn a third or even fourth or fifth language. Children learn culture, adaptability and tolerance through languages. Studies show bilingualism promotes increased cognitive development, critical thinking and has even been linked to higher SAT scores.
In today’s global economy, the ability to speak different languages provides great opportunities in employment and opens doors during travel.
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