Thursday, August 7, 2014

Benefits of Raising Bilingual Children



There was something I majorly took for granted as a kid. Actually quite a few things, but one particular benefit I took for granted was the fact that I was raised completely bilingual. Being a first-generation Mexican-American meant my parents were Mexican nationals who only spoke Spanish to their children. Just yesterday I enjoyed a telephone conversation with my momma completely in Spanish. As I hung up the phone I thought what I often do, "my Spanish was on point." I am proud of my bilingualism since it connects me to my heritage, my family and other benefits I'll touch on below.

My present goal is to succeed in raising bilingual children. My oldest at almost 8 years old has a foundation for the Spanish language, he completes Duolingo drills on the iPad and takes pride when others compliment his Spanish-speaking abilities. Sadly, it isn't enough and I don't consider him yet fully bilingual. We have three children, so we need to up the ante. As a solution, my husband and I strive to speak Spanish to our children often since television, childcare/school and friends will naturally inundate them with English. It's a habit we're still forming and ideally we'd like to get to the point where we only speak Spanish at home. We're not quite there, but with so many benefits we're hoping to eventually make our home a 100% Spanish-speaking household. 

And here's why:

1. Bilinguals experience an added connection to culture, heritage and opportunities. Bilingualism creates the ability to readily travel, work and study in countries that require one to know another language which in my family's case is Spanish. Bilingualism allows us to connect to more people across generations and cultures. 

2. There are also many cognitive advantages. Bilinguals are more able to multitask, focus and learn in a way that allows them to compartmentalize better. In fact, bilingual children have been shown to perform better than their monolingual peers at tasks that require active attention. 

3. Being bilingual gives children an advantage when attempting to learn a third or fourth language. It becomes easier to learn sounds, sentence structure, rhythm, etc. Plus, kids must learn a foreign language in high school as a college admissions requirement. Why not give them a leg up?

4. Kids who are bilingual tend to develop superior reading and writing skills.

5. There are some added advantages to bilingualism as we start to age. "In a recent study of 44 elderly Spanish-English bilinguals, scientists led by the neuropsychologist Tamar Gollan of the University of California, San Diego, found that individuals with a higher degree of bilingualism — measured through a comparative evaluation of proficiency in each language — were more resistant than others to the onset of dementia and other symptoms of Alzheimer’s disease: the higher the degree of bilingualism, the later the age of onset." (source: nytimes.com)

Are you bilingual, hoping to raise a bilingual child? Share your tips and comments below. 

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