This is one of my favourite topics to talk and write about!
It may be the case that you are in a family dynamic that already speaks a language other than English at home; or you have children learning another language at their primary school. Toddlers and preschoolers can also take part in fun language learning classes too!
Think that having your child learn another language when they are very young causes confusion? Think again!
Earlier this year, researchers from the National University of Singapore and the Singapore Institute for Clinical Sciences took a closer look at the effects of bilingualism.
Leher Singh of the University’s Department of Psychology and the study’s lead author says: “As adults, learning a second language can be painstaking and laborious. We sometimes project that difficulty onto our young babies, imagining a state of enormous confusion as two languages jostle for space in their little heads. However, a large number of studies have shown us that babies are uniquely well positioned to take on the challenges of bilingual acquisition and in fact, may benefit from this journey”.
The fantastic advantages of speaking more than one language include;
- A greater ability to process and remember information – this is essential for learning.
- Increased problem solving skills and ability to ‘think outside the square’
- Better awareness about how language works as a system (e.g. past tense, future tense, nouns, verbs etc.)
- Increased ability to think in different ways E.g. logically, creatively
- Enhanced oral/ spoken language skills
- Being more open minded and sensitive to others
- A delayed onset of dementia, by 4.5 years!
- Career and employment opportunities of course!
To maintain any language it needs to be practised; so ensure there is a lot of opportunity for your child to use the minority language. For example if your child is learning Greek; consider regular activities such as Greek playgroups or weekly Skype catch up sessions with any relatives/ friends who speak Greek. There are of course ways to complement language learning; such as listening to songs, sharing audio books together, and cultural dance classes.
Ultimately human interaction is the best way to practice any language, so get involved and enjoy the cultural journey!