It’s a common decision a lot of parents face—especially bilingual parents—when they start a family: “should I teach my child to be bilingual?”
Though it might seem out-of-the-norm for a child to speak more than one language, being bilingual—even multilingual—is actually becoming a super normal, routine part of modern-day society. Research even shows that, contrary to old-school beliefs, children being multilingual or bilingual won’t inhibit their intellect or slow their mental progress—it actually positively impacts them!
Their social skills, their cognitive skills, their environmental adaptation skills, their literacy skills, and so much more are all benefited by being bilingual!
The crazy part about all of this? Raising bilingual children actually used to be considered a bad thing! In the first half of the 20th century, doctors and researchers claimed that being bilingual was actually bad for children, saying it was distracting, hurt their IQ, and basically overworked and overloaded the brain.
However, researchers and scientists know that’s not the case—being bilingual (and raising bilingual children) actually has so many benefits that can affect your child forever.
If you’re unsure if you should raise your child to be bilingual, we’ve done our part to help. We at Wordy have put together a few of the benefits that many bilingual children are likely to enjoy!
Better Cognitive Skills
Research shows that one fact about being bilingual is always true—even when a bilingual person is using one language, the other language is working at the same time (something known as language co-activation).
Think about that for a second. That means if you have a person who is consistently managing two, fluent languages in their brains at the same time, it only makes sense that they’re consistently exercising their brains! Your child, as a bilingual person, will use their control mechanisms in their brain every time they speak and listen.
Why? Because they’ll constantly be practicing and strengthening their language skills, fine-tuning their inhibitory control (disregarding irrelevant information), and flexing their brain muscles to help improve their brain function.
Want to know something super fun and scientific? Bilingual children have denser grey matter, which is supposed to help them process language, boost their attention span, and even help organize their memories in a more efficient way!
Overall, bilingual children have advantages in things like:
Greater Literacy Proficiency
Helps Their Social Skills
Bilingual children have more opportunities for social interactions. Why? Because if a child is able to speak two (or more) languages, they’re more likely to be able to speak with more people than a child who just speaks just one language.
Bilingual children are able to enjoy the social benefits of exploring a culture in its native language, letting them connect, communicate, and enjoy that culture in a totally unique way! In other words, bilingual children will have more opportunity for conversation, experiences, and people in their life because they’re able to communicate with more people!
Makes Them More Flexible
A child who is able to switch between one language and another is used to adjusting on the fly, making tweaks in their everyday language, and overall is better able to adjust to their changing environment.
That means a child who is bilingual is likely to be more flexible in a new environment and better able to adjust to changes in both circumstances and environments.
Gives Them Better Concentration
Bilingual children are said to be more advanced in their literacy rates and in their concentration, too! Studies show that bilingual children are not only better able to control their attention spans, but also their literacy skills tend to be higher as well!
Why? Because being bilingual means consistently transferring from one language to another, finding the differences, the similarities, and promoting a flexible learning style.
We’re going to get technical for a minute to explain our point—being bilingual often evokes responses in both the prefrontal and orbitofrontal cortex in children, which, is said to play a major role in executive functioning—that’s the part of the brain that helps to control attention span, things like literacy, and the ability to be flexible in the way they think and function.
Remember what we just said about executive functioning and how it’s higher in bilingual children? That also helps your child with their multitasking abilities. Multilingual children tend to have the advantage when it comes to multitasking, avoiding distraction, and certain types of critical thinking.
Bilingual children are more likely to perform better at focusing on a single task while ignoring distracting information. Think about a child in a distracting, noisy classroom trying to read a textbook—that selective attention and ability to ignore distraction side issues could better equip your child for a successful life within a school system. This research also shows that bilingual babies are better able to control their cognitive flexibility, meaning they’re better at mastering the ability to switch between two different concepts (like two different languages!).
Provides Long-term Benefits
One of the biggest benefits of raising a bilingual child is that being bilingual actually changes the way a child’s brain works—not just in a neurological way, but also in the actual structure, too.
These small adaptations affect children in the short-term, but it also positively impacts your child in the long-term, too. How? By protecting their brain against age-related decline.
Being bilingual has been proven to help avoid some of the natural stuff that comes hand-in-hand with getting older, like memory loss! Typically, older people who are bilingual (in most cases) have better memory, better executive control, and better function of brain networks.
Are you looking to raise your child to be bilingual? Wordy can help! We pride ourselves on making quality hands-on bilingual toys that will help your child learn to love words, language, and cultures—all while having fun playing with toys they love. Click here to check us out!
-The Wordy Team "We're not trying to reinvent the wheel. We just want to write wheel on the wheel."