The Benefits of Raising a Multilingual Child

Benefits of Raising a Multilingual Child

Article by Vita Cafnik, teacher at Cherry Tree, an English-speaking preschool in the heart of Vinohrady.

There are many perks to raising a multilingual child. It’s pretty obvious that multilingualism in itself is an advantage. Being able to speak more than one language in an ever so global world is a valuable asset.

However, there is more to multilingualism than what meets the eye. Many studies have revealed some amazing benefits that come from speaking multiple languages, and starting this marvelous journey from an early age, can restructure the brain for the better.

So what are the advantages of raising a multilingual child?

Children who speak more than one language develop higher cognitive skills:

  • Speaking more than one language provides exercise for the brain, which works as a muscle – the more you work out, the more it “grows”.
  • Bilingualism improves brain’s executive function, which is “the management system in the brain” responsible for directing the attention processes used for planning, solving problems, and performing a variety of mentally demanding tasks. Studies have shown that differences in brain activity related to bilingualism can be spotted as early as 11 months of age.
  • Bilingual children tend to be better at problem-solving, as languages work as puzzles. Studies have shown that children who speak more than one language tend to be better at understanding math concepts, and solving word problems.
  • Children who speak more than one language exercise cognitive flexibility, and they tend to be less distracted and more focused on the tasks, which makes for an educational advantage.

Multilingual exposure improves children’s social abilities

  • Kids exposed to more than one language tend to be more open-minded, and better adjusted to the changes in the environment. Being exposed to multiple cultures through language enhances: cultural tolerance (understanding that different people have different ways of doing things) and tolerance of ambiguity (the way people approach new, unfamiliar situations).
  • Studies show that multilingual children are more culturally sensitive, and they can be better at communicating than monolingual children. An experiment where children were exposed to a situation where they had to consider other person’s perspective, revealed that bilingual children were better at this assignment than monolingual children.

A probable explanation being: “Children in multilingual environments have social experiences that provide routine practice in considering the perspectives of others: They have to think about who speaks which language to whom, who understands which content, and the times and places in which different languages are spoken.”

Bilingual children learn other languages with greater ease throughout their lives, as being able to speak more than one language “wedges open” a window for future language learning.

Multilingualism and bilingualism definitely have their advantages, however, despite all the great benefits it wouldn’t be right to say that multilinguals always outdo monolinguals in all areas of life, because it is simply not true. Certainly, there are monolingual who have it all.

However, we all wish for our children to thrive, and by providing something extra, an opportunity to enrich their experience, we equip them better for their future lives and set them off to an exciting journey — and multilingualism can be a wonderful tool for developing our children’s full potential.

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