Being bilingual

Did you know that in Africa those who speak just one language are amongst the minority? Imagine if you woke up one morning with the ability to speak two, three, or more languages. Life would be effortless – no more language classes, textbooks or memorizing masculine and feminine nouns!

At Cardiff Spanish Academy, we tutor students who are bilingual in Welsh and English and on the other hand, those that don’t speak any other languages (not that this is a hindrance when it comes to learning Spanish). Regrettably, perhaps due to globalisation, in many countries, English is seen as the most important language to speak and thus parents are unwilling to teach their children anything other than English, even if it is not the parents’ mother tongue. This phenomenon is causing a significant problem: many languages are becoming stigmatized, endangered or worse – extinct. Therefore, I’m here to highlight some of the major reasons why bringing up your child to speak more than one language is one of the best decisions you’ll ever make.

1.) Intellectual growth
Despite the common misconception that children become confused when their parents speak to them in two different languages, studies show that our brains have no limit as to what information we can absorb. Therefore, although parents may notice some minor grammatical errors or structures that mix the two languages in the early stages, these mistakes are proven to be a perfectly healthy stage of the process of becoming bilingual. In fact, studies have shown that children who are bilingual have a greater ability to comprehend written texts, as the language skills that they have naturally learnt are transferred to other subjects, resulting in bilingual children generally finding themselves in the higher ability sets at school.

2.) Enlarged cultural repertoire and social advantage
Bilingual children naturally have a much greater understanding of languages and different cultures. The added linguistic element helps them to know and understand cultural aspects that exist in one language and not in another, adding another dimension to their lives. On a social level, this can also be said for understanding the perspectives of other people. In general, bilingual people find it easier to put themselves into someone else’s shoes.

3.) Enhanced professional opportunities for the future
This practical benefit is one that cannot be ignored. Although some languages may be seen as more useful in terms of trade and business than others, knowing a second (or third, or fourth!) language is highly valued in this era of globalisation, something I’ve often spoken about on BBC Radio Wales.

These are just a few of the principal reasons to share your language knowledge with your children. However, if you aren’t bilingual yourself or you and your partner don’t speak different languages, don’t abandon the idea – why not start young and put your child into a bilingual nursery, show him or her some Disney films in another language or start with children’s classes? Children learn languages best before the age of three, so although it is never too late to learn one, there’s no doubt that the earlier, the better!

 

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