What are the Benefits of Raising Bilingual Children ?

I can’t see how being bilingual could be a disadvantage or a weakness but there are a lot of preconceived about bilingualism.

I was always interested in other languages, cultures and customs and always thought of bilingualism (or polyglotism) as a magic power. If I had to have one, that would be this one.

When you think of it, the ability to speak many languages enables you to double, triple, quadruple and more your communicating and social/interacting skills as well as your opportunities in life.

Learning a foreign language brings people together. I am glad I learned English as I have now a wonderful husband and an adorable baby girl, dear friends and interesting people in my life, and I’ve had the opportunity to work and study in London and Canada – which would have never been possible, hadn’t I spoke English.

Here is an article I read about the Benefits and Disadvantages of raising children in a bilingual environment via http://www.raising-bilingual-children.com/basics/info/pros-cons/ (Raising Bilingual Children). .

“What advantages does a bilingual environment offer children? What disadvantages arise from raising children in a bilingual environment?

The Advantages:

  • Children raised in more than one language are able to master both languages just as well as a child raised in one language.
  • Children in multilingual environments are possessed with a greater feel for languages and at the same time, understand that language is a tool for the purpose of communication.
  • Children raised bilingually have greater facility in acquiring foreign language fluency at a later time.
  • Children who enjoy a multilingual education can transfer knowledge of one language to another. This “knowledge transfer” allows for greater comprehension with grammatical structures  and can also serve enhance vocabulary.
  • Children raised in more than one language have added advantages in certain careers having an international focus.
  • Children in multilingual environments have a better feel for the cultural differences and peculiarities of the world.

The Disadvantages:

  • Children raised bilingually run the risk of not mastering either language, and subsequently having difficulties in successful completion of a formal education.
  • Children enjoying a bilingual environment run the risk of being isolated by the host society or of being teased by their peers when speaking in the foreign language. This teasing can have a detrimental effect on the self-esteem of the child.
  • Speech impediments in children, whether it is of a physical nature or difficulties in the pronunciation of the language becomes more difficult to remedy in bilingual children as each language has to be addressed individually.

Tip: The success or failure of these advantages and disadvantages can be traced to the family. The more activities the family does together and the more they communicate, the greater chance for the advantages to take hold. This sows the seeds for greater success in mastering the language.”

How many languages can you speak? Did you feel different because you could speak more languages than your peers at school? Will you teach your children as well? Any regrets or wishes? Please share !

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Comments

  1. I’m really keen on foreign languages and I wish I could speak fluently at least 5! In my opinion, being bilingual or polyglot can only be an asset. You are more open to what is around you, you can learn more easily another language… I’m always amazed when I see a child speaking with a perfect accent either in English or in French! As you know I can speak French, English and Spanish. Now I’d like to improve my Creole, learn Portuguese and re-learn Sign Language!

  2. I waste/miss my life… lol! For me, everybody haven’t skills to be comfortable with foreign languages. To my mind, as you can’t explain how, in maths, for the same problem 2 children don’t solve it at the same time. So, like some people have “a good head” for maths, some people have a “good head” for english.

    It’s not an excuse, it’s a difficult “constat”,which go in your way, because nowadays it’s a big check/curb not only professional but above all social.

  3. As you know, I can speak 4 languages fluentely (French, Portuguese, English and Spanish). I also know Italian but I’m not fluent.
    I think that being raised in a bilingual environment can only be an advantage. And I’m saying it of my own experience. I was raised by speaking French at school and Portuguese at home. I’ll never thank my parents enough, for hadn’t they spoken Portuguese to me I wouldn’t be able to speak it today. I know many kids whose parents are Portuguese and they don’t speak a Portuguese, that’s a real shame.
    I love languages, and English language has given me lots of opportunities in my life, like studying abroad and even teaching abroad.

    So Deb, if you have the opportunity of speaking French to your daughter, you should definitely go for it!

  4. I was raised in an English-speaking home in Québec, but attended French school and spoke French pretty much everywhere else. My husband is from Kamloops, BC but speaks French very well. Initially while we were living in QC, we simply spoke English at home, as this was my stepchildren’s language and there was French everywhere else. We just assumed the kids would pick it up eventually. We moved here a few years ago, and I deeply regret not communicating with them in both languages from the start. My older children will now likely have to immerse themselves in a fully French setting to learn the language. I am speaking French to my younger ones in the hopes that they become fluent in the language and that perhaps my older ones will pick it up a little more as well.

    Every job I have obtained here on PEI has been thanks to my bilingualism. I am grateful to be met with opportunities to use both languages on a regular basis. I truly hope that my older children will be more open to learning French with time.

    • Hi and thank you for sharing your own experience.
      I have worked as a French instructor, and a French-speaking substitute Early Childhood ed. since I arrived
      on the island. Not for long as I got pregnant and was very sick right from the get go but I am hoping to go
      back to work and use both languages. I just find it hard to find work on the island – but that would be another post !

      I think you are doing great speaking French with the younger kids as they seem to learn so much faster – they are little sponges.
      At some point, I was speaking in RRRRs ANNNs ONNNs and EEEEs just so my daughter would learn to pronounce them the right way.
      I know it was silly because really, she will be perfectly bilingual if I keep talking French.
      I just don’t want her to have an accent !

      Thanks for passing by !

  5. My goal for the longest time, as a linguistics major in college and a general lover of language from the time I could first read, was to marry someone who was bilingual. I myself studied French in high school and was good at everything except the speaking part, and I wish I had started earlier and continued with it longer. I am determined that when I have children, they will learn SOME language other than English, and they will learn it at an early age. I don’t know who will teach them, though, because my boyfriend (who I plan to marry) and I only speak English. Sigh.

    • Hi Bridget and thank you for sharing !
      I can relate to your story ! I always knew I’d have a bilingual family.
      Do you have any idea what language you would like for your children to learn?
      You can teach them yourself you know – if you start early with music, books and simple words, it will
      help them get familiar with foreign sounds !

      • Honestly, as long as they have some early exposure to some language other than English, I’ll be happy. Ideally, I’d like them to go to a school where they would enroll in language classes before seventh grade, which is when I started to learn French–but by age 12, you’ve lost almost all ability to learn new phonemes! I mean, by the time you’re just one year old you’ve lost about half of the phonemes you don’t use/hear regularly. So it’s tough! My boyfriend is in the military, so once we’re married we’ll be spending a lot of time on military bases and will hopefully meet a large variety of people who speak various languages–maybe I could get them to tutor my kids, who knows 🙂 Failing all that, I’ll just buy them Muzzy and let them run with it.

      • If you have them naturally exposed to the language and you manage to pass on to them your love for languages, they will have the best tool to learn !

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