In an increasingly global world, parents realize their kids will benefit from knowing more than 1 language. That’s why more and more parents are enrolling their children in foreign-language classes.
It’s not a rare phenomenon. It’s estimated more of the world’s population is bilingual or multilingual than monolingual, according to research organization The Dana Foundation.
“It’s becoming more common because of the ever-increasing melting pot here,” said Roula Braidy, a multilingual mother of 3 and Akron Children’s manager of language and special access services. “Learning another language teaches kids more about their heritage and exposes them to other cultures, as well.”
It’s a smart move. Research has proven speaking a second language boosts cognitive, creative thinking, memory and listening skills. Not to mention, people who speak more than 1 language often enjoy better career prospects and higher standards of living.
“Kids get smarter when they learn 2 or more languages,” Roula said. “Their brain works in a different way to process information 2 ways.”
Despite these benefits, myths abound about teaching children another language. Here, Roula debunks the top 3 myths about raising a bilingual child.
It can confuse children, and they mix the 2 languages.
Children have an innate ability to tell one language from another.
“I grew up in Lebanon learning 3 languages, and it was not confusing,” Roula shared. “Kids can handle much more language input than we give them credit for.”
Most children who are raised to be bilingual will mix the languages from time to time. It’s inevitable — and harmless — as they sort out and learn both languages. In fact, some kids may do it on purpose because they don’t know a word they need in the language they’re speaking.
But, experts agree it’s only temporary and it eventually goes away as a child’s vocabulary develops in both languages.
Kids should start at a young age.
It’s never too late — or too early — to introduce your child to a foreign language. Experts agree the earlier the better, but that doesn’t mean kids have to start at birth to be successful.
Research shows the optimal time to learn a foreign language is between birth and 3 years — when your child is learning her first language — with the next best time between 4 and 7 years old and the third best time between 8 years and puberty.
Studies show after puberty, foreign languages are stored in a different part of the brain — so children have to translate first as a path to the new language. Though it’s more difficult for kids to learn a new language after puberty, kids this age do have the ability to learn a second language.
It can lead to speech delays.
Research shows that bilingualism does not cause delays in either speech or language acquisition. Even if your child has a speech delay, raising her bilingual won’t make her speech any more delayed.
All children develop their languages differently, whether they’re monolingual or bilingual.
Some children raised bilingual may take a little longer to start talking than kids raised in a monolingual home, but that doesn’t mean they have a speech delay. If a child has a speech or language delay, they will be delayed in both languages.