Wednesday, 25 May 2011

10 Random Reasons for Bringing up your Children Bilingually

Maybe this is like bringing coals to Newcastle (or owls to Athens as the German version of this proverb goes) because thankfully, most educators these days are aware of the asset that growing up with more than one languages is. It's a great shift - I still remember how they trained my off standard pronunciation out of me and not being able to understand my granny because my parents did not speak dialect with me.

So for anyone considering bilingualism for their children, or anyone needing a bit of a boost to keep up the good work, here are random reasons for raising bilingual children. They are random because I'm sure there are more, and do please add them in the comments!

1. Your child will learn a second language without any of the hard work. Learning languages takes consistent and hard effort. Even if you're fluent once, you can lose it if you don't use the language. Children have the unique opportunity to pick a second or third language up without noticing the effort.

2. Your child will be able to learn further languages with greater ease.

3. Your child will find out and experience that there are different cultures and that this brings richness to their, and everybody's, life. Your child will thus also have a greater understanding and empathy for other cultures (or end up babbling away in made up Lithuanian just because that's where E. comes from and this is how she speaks - which can be a pain in the backside though I'm sure it will pass)

4. Your partner will pick up some more of your language without any effort

5. You will have an incentive not to forget your roots, and your language. In fact, it'll help you stay fluent in your mother tongue. (This statement will only sound odd to people who've not experienced forgetting their own language. It happens, it's sad, but it's the way it goes)

6. You will be able to share memories and create memories with your children which you would otherwise not have done. Kind of reliving your own childhood, but also enriching your own memories that may have faded a bit.

7. You will find a second community of parents which can give so much - support, fun, help you celebrate your culture, new friends, and realisation of how even parenting styles differ across countries!  (or realise how un-German your selection of plastic toys really is and wonder why homeopathy is so much less available in the UK)

8. Your child will have natural opportunities to learn more than they would normally: Geography, travel, languages, festivals, maps, flags, words, you name it - there are two worlds to explore, how exciting for a curious mind!

9. You will keep in touch with your own background more which is really enriching. You'll find out about radio stations, books and audio books that you would otherwise not have, you will make sure to keep family and friends connection alive. You'll learn about your culture as your children ask you questions (what is Schuetzenfest? Why do they look like hunters?)

10. You will be able to pick and choose the best from two sets of media. We love Janoschs Traumstunde to bits, and Maus and Elefant prominent features in our home as is The Lion King. Never a daft TV programme again - if you have two cultures to choose the best of children's TV, books, and more from, you'll be spoilt for choice!

And all of that without mentioning that it might be useful in working life too...


BNM said...

We have made up Welsh in our house. Car bless her learns some at nursery and some from me then blends that and her own made up words together and the result is conmprehensible but so funny.


Mwa said...

I'm loving being a bilingual family as well. It's so much fun!

James said...

Bilingualism is the gift that keeps on giving. I would have a much narrower world view with only English, just reading other countries' newspapers give me different perspectives on the same news - the anglophone world forgets how homogenous and self-repeating it is.

Petra said...

I so agree with all your points, thank you for the timely reminder.

Roxana A. Soto said...

All these reasons are wonderful and true and then there's also the fact that, as so many studies have proved, being bilingual is good for the brain! Really good!

Dominique Goh said...

Great reasons.. where we are everyone is bilingual due to our education system. I'm going with multilingual for the kids so they won't forget our traditional roots and dialects.

Fiona said...

I love them all but Number 7 rings particularly true for us.
Even my girls now comment when we visit non Swiss friends on the amount of plastic stuff they have!

Anonymous said...

This is a great list! As a non-native speaker of German (I speak both English and German with my son), a few of your reasons don't exactly apply to me. But there are other benefits on the flip side. I get to learn a whole new set of vocabulary (they don't teach "baby" German in the textbooks!). And I get to learn about cultural events in Germany (like Martinstag). Luckily, I've been teaching at a Saturday school, so I've had a good preview of such cultural events. I'm also speaking more German - I haven't used it every day in a long time! So I'm feeling more comfortable in my second language and keeping it alive. :)



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