We live in a global society now. More and more people are bilingual and multilingual because their daily life and work needs. It is the reality and it is a trend with the globalization. In California, the United states, one immigrants’ area where I live, almost every child is bilingual, and some of them are multilingual. I know a lot of people in Europe are multilingual.
There are many benefits for being multilingual. I can speak three languages, Chinese, English and Japanese, and work in California, the United States. I am using the three languages at my work place every day, which benefits me a lot on my professional work.
However, I have some worries on raising multilingual children. Does teaching a baby three languages really Ok? Can the little one handle them well? Since my children live in U.S and may work in U.S in the future, if they spend a lot of time on study foreign languages, can they compete with the only-speaking-English children here in the United States?
Recently, I have been doing some research on raising multilingual children, I would like to share with all of you, and look forward to your questions, doubts, comments, suggestions and answers, and of course your experience and stories.
The Benefit of Being Multilingual
If you are a multilingual, you can speak to many more people, understand their culture more, and communicate with them better. By being able to communicate with more people better, you gain more opportunities in your career and your life! For example, the opportunities to make more friends, the job opportunities. Enjoy more in your life by broadening your view!!
Language learning periods
In 1800, a young boy called the wild boy was found in a forest in France.
Despite many efforts, the boy never learnt to talk. He was thought to have passed language learning periods.
Chomsky, theorist of the language in the 1950’s and onwards, thought that humans have a predisposition for speaking when brought up in the right environment.
Usually, by the age of three or four, children are able to master their native language with its many words and subtle grammatical rules.
Humans are born with an brain area specialized for language. Most language theorists agree that the learning of a language requires innate mechanisms that predispose children to it, coupled with an environment that provides adequate models and opportunities to practice.
The Pros and Cons of raising a multilingual Child
What advantages does a bilingual, multilingual environment offer children? What disadvantages arise from raising bilingual, multilingual children?
Here I summarized the pros and cons to raise a bilingual, multilingual child by my understanding.
1. Growing up with multiple languages is the most efficient and effective way to learn a foreign language.
Research have shown that the best language learning period is between 0 and 3 years of age, since nature has granted us with a optimal brain building specially in the production of language. This amazing ability decreases by the age of 6-7, when children as adults have to put more efforts in what they learn on language.
Nature helped us to assimilate languages very quickly and very early, in order of survival needs. Studies have shown that languages in bilingual infants are stored closer together in the brain than in later bilinguals, meaning that learning later takes greater effort and is treated differently by the brain compared to children acquiring them simultaneously.
2. Children raised in a bilingual or multilingual environment have greater facility in acquiring foreign language fluency at a later time.
3. If your child wants to learn more languages later in life, she could master the languages faster. This is especially true when acquiring similar languages.
4. Many studies around the world have also proved that being multilingual helps children to develop better reading and writing skills.
When children develop their abilities in two or more languages throughout their primary school years, they gain a deeper understanding of languages and how to use it effectively. They have more practice in processing language, especially when they develop literacy in both or more, and they are able to compare and contrast the ways in which their two or more languages used in reality. Children who enjoy a multilingual education can transfer knowledge of one language to another, which allows for deeper comprehension.
5. Those children growing up in a multilingual environment tend to have in general a better analytical, social and academic skills comparing to monolingual children.
For decades, people have wondered whether the brains of bilingual people are different from monolinguals. People also worry that the brains of bilingual children are somehow negatively impacted by early experience with two languages. The present findings show that the brains of bilinguals and monolinguals are similar, and both process their individual languages in fundamentally similar ways. The exception is that bilinguals appear to engage more of the neural landscape available for language processing than monolinguals, which means the brain is better developed, compared with the monolingual that is not taking full advantage of the neural landscape for language and cognitive processing than nature could have potentially made available.
6. Your child will develop an appreciation for other cultures and an innate acceptance of cultural differences, which I believe is one of the keys to succeed in the global society.
7.The research suggests that bilingual or multilingual children may also develop more flexibility in their thinking as a result of processing information through two or more different languages.
8. Their natural flexibility make them have very good adaptability to changes, and then they tend to feel self confident in different environments.
9. Career opportunities are multiplied many times over for people who know more than one language. Especially, in certain careers having an international focus.
To be continued in part 2.
If you are interested, please refer to “Multilingual Books Review“.