Debunking Top 5 Myths and Underlining Useful Facts about Bilingual Children
by Samridhi Khandelwal,
Table Of Contents
- 5 Myths about Bilingual Children
- 1. Raising Children Bilingually Is Not Normal!
- 2. Bilingual Children Get Confused Between The Two Languages
- 3. Bilingual Children Have Delays In Learning Languages
- 4. Bilingual Children Have Poor Grammar
- 5. Bilingual Children Have To Be Fully And Equally Fluent In Both Languages
- 5 Facts about Bilingual Children
- 1. Better Communication Skills
- 2. Cognitive Advantages
- 3. Learning Benefits
- 4. Health Benefits
- 5. Better Problem-solving Abilities
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Did you know that bilingualism enhances the cognitive functions of your child? Yes, you read that right. Bilingual children tend to be more creative and better at performing tasks that require conflict management. There are plenty of reasons which can ensure you that raising a child bilingually is advantageous for them. Bilingual children are better at communication as they can understand different perspectives better. They are also more empathetic due to the same reason. They are usually better at solving math problems and word problems than bilingual children. Now, you may be wondering about the downsides of raising your child bilingually.
Well, there are certain myths around bilingual children. Let's bust the top 5 myths about bilingual children.
5 Myths about Bilingual Children
1. Raising Children Bilingually Is Not Normal!
The first myth most of us come across is that it is not normal/easy to raise a child bilingually. This certainly isn’t true. Look around and you will realize that more and more children are growing up to be bilingual than monolingual. As a matter of fact, there’s no scientific reason to back the myth that the brains of children are only equipped to learn one language at a time. Children who grow up bilingually achieve the milestones at the same time as monolingual children. They start babbling and forming sentences with multiple words at the same time. It is not only normal but quite advantageous to raise your children bilingually.
2. Bilingual Children Get Confused Between The Two Languages
You will hear a lot too that bilingual children are confused between the two languages. So, is it true? The concise answer is no. According to Sorace & Ladd, Children are incredibly sensitive to the different ways people speak. Even when they only hear one language, they learn very quickly about differences between the way men and women talk, the difference between polite and impolite ways of talking, and so on. For children, the bilingual situation is just a matter of another difference between people!
What is assumed to be confusion between the two languages is often code-mixing. Code mixing is when someone uses one word or phrase from one language while speaking another language. Code-mixing is very common among adult bilinguals too. It is not a sign of confusion, rather it shows the resourcefulness of the child. This means that a child may not know the right word to express their thoughts in one language due to their limited vocabulary. So, they use a word from their other language to express themselves. Thus, mixing the two languages helps them better in expressing themselves.
3. Bilingual Children Have Delays In Learning Languages
You may often find that bilingual children have a smaller vocabulary in a language than monolingual children. This leads to the myth that bilingual children have learning delays. This is not true at all. Bilingual children may know lesser words than monolingual children in a language. However, when you add the words they know in both languages, their vocabulary size is the same as that of monolingual children.
The reason for this can be the limited memory of children. While monolingual children use their memory to store words from one language, bilingual children divide the same memory between the two languages. Therefore, it is reasonable for them to know fewer words in one language.
Although, a bilingual child knows one language better than the other. This is also not a sign of a learning delay. It is simply related to their exposure to the languages. The child will learn the language they are exposed to more often better than the other language. Therefore, parents should ensure equal exposure to both languages.
4. Bilingual Children Have Poor Grammar
Bilingual children who have adequate exposure to both languages exhibit the same pattern of grammatical development as monolingual children. They can also keep their two grammars separate so that they avoid using the grammar of one language while speaking the other language.
A bilingual child may use the word from one language while using the other language. This is known as code-switching. It is common among bilingual adults too. In such a situation you will notice that even though the child is using a word from another language, they are still using the correct grammar. If a bilingual child uses an English word in an otherwise Hindi sentence, they’ll make sure that it fits into the structure of that sentence.
5. Bilingual Children Have To Be Fully And Equally Fluent In Both Languages
This is not only a misconception but it also puts a lot of pressure on the parents as well as the child. Every child is different and so are their language skills. Some children may understand both languages and speak only one. While others can speak two but only ever use one. Some children may know more words in one language than the other. Also, some may only be able to write in one of their languages. All of these children are still bilingual.
As long as your child can use their two or more languages in everyday life, they are bilingual. They are bilingual even if they choose to use only one of those languages. Also, it’s natural that bilingual children’s language skills are not all at the same level. So, you don’t have to burn yourself to make your child equally proficient in both of the languages.
We debunked several myths around raising your children bilingually. Raising your child bilingually doesn’t seem bad now, does it? We hope it will help you with deciding whether you want to raise your child monolingually or bilingually.
There are some very interesting facts about bilingual children. Let’s have a look at them.
5 Facts about Bilingual Children
1. Better Communication Skills
Several studies have suggested that bilinguals show certain advantages when it comes to social understanding. The studies discovered that children from bilingual or multilingual environments are better at interpreting a speaker’s meaning than children who are exposed only to their native tongue. This can be because understanding different languages also involves understanding different perspectives, thoughts, desires, and intentions. Bilingual children also have enhanced sensitivity to certain features of communication such as tone of voice. This helps them in understanding the emotions of the speaker along with the message. Thus resulting in overall better communication.
2. Cognitive Advantages
Yes, it is true, bilingual children have cognitive advantages over monolingual children. Bilinguals have the tendency to be more creative and a better ability to focus. They are essentially better at multitasking and abstract thinking. They also perform better at tasks that require conflict management. They are also good at remembering and making decisions. Most importantly, they are good at solving math problems.
Aren’t these reasons enough to raise a bilingual child!
3. Learning Benefits
Bilingual children develop a more flexible approach towards thinking through problems as a result of their ability to quickly switch between languages. The ability to read and think in two or more different languages promotes higher levels of abstract thought, which is important in learning. Recent research has shown that people who use two or more languages are better at blocking out irrelevant information. This helps them in retaining more of the required details. Thus, serving as another benefit in learning.
4. Health Benefits
Recent research suggested that lifelong bilinguals have increased connectivity in certain areas of the brain that help to protect them from dementia. Who could have thought that bilingualism can have health benefits too? Bilingual brains are more resilient to dementia caused by Alzheimer’s disease. The symptoms develop five years later in bilinguals on average. They are even able to cope with a greater level of brain dysfunction than monolinguals. Thus, raising your child to be bilingual has lifelong benefits. They are not only smarter but also healthier.
5. Better Problem-solving Abilities
Bilingualism helps children in improving their problem-solving skills. Learning a foreign language involves more brain functioning which helps children improve verbal and problem-solving abilities. Such abilities can come in handy when taking tests and in solving crises in life generally. As language is like a puzzle, with letters and sounds that fit together to make words and form sentences, children become more adept at processing information quickly. You may even notice that they can solve word problems earlier.
Raising a bilingual child can seem like a daunting task for parents. The myths around bilingualism only make it harder to stick to your decision of raising your child bilingually. We hope this myth-busting session helped you clear your doubts about bilingualism.
Teaching your child two languages may seem tougher but it isn’t much different from teaching one language to your toddler. Even with older children patience and consistency can help you achieve the goal. Bilinguals have significant advantages over monolinguals, some of which can actually affect your children’s personality development and future life.
So, what are you waiting for?