This article is a guest post by LingoBus, a platform that provides one-on-one Mandarin lessons for children.
Being bilingual has many benefits for most people. It can bring more career opportunities, improve your brain power, and help you understand other cultures, among others.
This article is about a special subset of language learners: Children.
We’ll cover the benefits of being bilingual for children. If – by the end of it – you’re convinced, you can click here to start your child’s language journey.
It will take both you and your kids a lot of time and energy to start learning a new language. You might find yourself asking if it’s worth the investment. Is it even possible?
Consider this: Bilingualism, and even multilingualism, is no longer a novelty today. In some parts of the world, it is the standard.
In fact, more than half of the world’s population speaks at least one language in besides their mother tongue, according to a survey by the British Council. Multilingualism is more common in Europe, as many counties in Europe have more than one official languages. Belgium, for example, has three official languages plus many other minority dialects.
What does Belgium have to do with me?
- It is not impossible to master a new language.
- Being bilingual is increasingly essential for future generations to be competitive.
Some parents might still be asking, why start learning a new language so early?
Of course, children have the right to choose when to start. After all, they’re not interested or engaged the new language, they’ll hardly make any progress.
Therefore, it is essential to make language-learning fun.
Nevertheless, the importance of starting early is clear when you consider the critical period hypothesis of language acquisition.
How bilingual is enough?
Have you ever considered what being bilingual means?
One question that inevitably comes up is to your mind is, “How can a person be categorized as bilingual?”
Obviously, knowing the basics or even being able to carry on conversations is not the same as talking like a native speaker. However, as researchers point out, being bilingual is not black-and-white. There’s no test score to be qualified as bilingual. What is clear, though, is that the earlier start on the path to proficiency, the higher the level they can potentially reach.
This idea is backed by the theory of critical period language acquisition. This period, from 4 to 12 years old, is the most crucial time in which an individual can acquire a language if presented with adequate stimuli.
After this period, it will be harder to master a new language at a level close to a native speaker, although it’s still possible. This has been easily proved through children who are raised in multinational families and can usually become bilingual later in life.
This show that children, if they get enough exposure in a target language, can do better than adult learners. Children have a better memory, are more energetic, and they haven’t yet set up a psychological defense mechanism which often prevents adolescents and adults from speaking up in a new language.
With all that said, we’ve finally come to the heart of today’s topic: The benefits of being bilingual for children.
Does being bilingual make a person smarter physiologically?
I’m afraid not. But the benefits to the brain are obvious and they are more important than simply being smarter: Being bilingual will help contribute to the development of the functionality of the brain.
Research shows that bilingualism helps to improve one’s inhibition ability, working memory, and switching attention. This results in better performance at multi-tasking, sustained attention and high-level thought. Studies also showed that bilingual people outperformed monolingual people in terms of spatial working memory tasks, Bilingualism also has widespread effects on the functional and structural properties of various cortical and sub-cortical structures in the brain.
Bilingual Career Opportunities
Being able to communicate in another language will definitely bring more opportunities and potential to a child’s future development.
Do you know how many jobs on Linkedin require candidates to speak Mandarin Chinese? Around 400,000! The number speaks for itself. This is only one language alone. If you count other languages, the number will be way higher.
We need to remember that the world we live is a highly diversified one and that people from different places live their life and do things in different ways. Of course, English is spoken by a large portion of the world as a lingua franca. But isn’t it better to make new friends by speaking their language from the get go?
As the patterns of thinking can also be different between cultures, learning a new language can help one to understand it better. This is especially beneficial to young kids who are finding their worldview. Knowing the differences and trying to understand to get along with those who are different from us is of great significance.