Bilingualism is not only possible, but extremely beneficial, for all kids
I always knew that I wanted my kids to speak Spanish one day. I just know in my gut that it’s super important to me.
However, when I tell people about it, I often get some questions.
Why do you want to do that?
Doesn’t it hurt their ability to learn in English?
Is it really necessary to know another language?
I set out to research some of the benefits of raising bilingual children. I pored over academic articles, but quickly realized that there is no scientific consensus.
For every article I read stating that bilingual children have better attention spans and memories, I read another one stating that that simply isn’t true.
So instead of focusing on academic research, I decided to think about the benefits that I have witnessed personally, both from my own experiences learning Spanish as a child and from the students that I have taught during my teaching career.
No matter what the research says, I know in my heart that there truly are so many benefits to raising bilingual children.
Here I will share with you just some of them.
Being bilingual opens kids’ minds and hearts to different cultures
Back when I was learning Spanish as a child, my sister and I had a subscription to Hola! magazine. There was a pen pal section in the back, where other kids could send in their address with a short description about themselves, and you could become pen pals.
In hindsight, it doesn’t seem like the safest idea, but we loved paging through it, and loved it even more when letters from Mexico and many other countries would appear in our mailbox.
We always wrote our letters in Spanish, and the letters we got back were almost always in Spanish as well. If we weren’t learning Spanish, we never, ever would have felt the excitement of receiving these letters and learning about other kids our age from so many different parts of the world.
This is just one example of how bilingual children quickly learn that there is a whole lot more to the world than just their own immediate surroundings.
They come to appreciate other ways of living, thinking, and doing things that are different from their own, without fear or judgment.
Which leads me right into the next benefit…
Bilingual children can form more friendships
When children are very young, pretty much everyone is a friend. They don’t see differences in others the way that older children and adults do.
As they grow older, children start to see the differences among people, and may start asking questions about why someone looks, speaks, or acts differently from them. This is totally developmentally appropriate.
No matter where you live, chances are your kids go to school and hang out with a diverse group of children.
Bilingual children have a very special gift. They are able to talk to, befriend, and appreciate kids and families from different backgrounds. This will enrich them in more ways than we will ever realize.
When I taught elementary school, there were certain children who were designated as special helpers for our “newcomer” students (students who had newly arrived to the United States and had very limited English language skills).
The helper children were chosen by their teachers because of their helpful and open-minded nature. More often than not, they spoke at least some of the student’s native language. If not, they definitely spoke it by the end of the school year.
These children developed genuine friendships beyond just a helper/helpee relationship. They learned so much about other countries, languages, families, food, sports, TV shows, among many other things.
Both children were truly enriched from knowing the other.
This is what I want for my own kids.
I truly believe that being bilingual will help them befriend and learn from many, many more people than ever before.
Traveling, eating out, and exploring your own city are so much more fun with bilingual kids
At first, I was going to dedicate this section to the joys of traveling abroad with bilingual kids.
But why limit it to just traveling abroad? There is so much fun to be had in your own neck of the woods.
No matter where you live, I bet there are restaurants, celebrations, art exhibitions, theater, and other multicultural events to enjoy as a family.
And what better way to do it than with bilingual kids?
My high school students always told me that their favorite Spanish class memory was going to a local Mexican restaurant after school and having to order and converse in Spanish.
But you need not limit yourself to just restaurants. A great way to find events near you is through Facebook. You can search events by date, see what’s going on this weekend, and get reminders of events you’re interested in.
Get out and experience the joy of immersing yourself and your family in a different culture for a day.
You don’t even need to leave your house to travel around the world! There are so many virtual tours of all parts of the globe, and with Google Maps and Google Earth, you can visit pretty much anywhere in the world from the comfort of your home.
Bilingual kids will turn into bilingual adults with so many doors open to them
So far we’ve been focusing on the benefits of being bilingual for children, but these benefits reach far past childhood.
Bilingual kids will one day become bilingual adults who will have so many doors open to them because of this skill.
A quick search on Indeed shows that as of the day of writing this, there are 547 jobs with Spanish in the description in the Minneapolis area alone.
Bilingualism, especially Spanish, is in constant demand, and the demand is only growing.
A 2017 report by the New American Economy stated that in the United States, the demand for workers who speak more than one language doubled over five years.
The most in-demand languages? Spanish, Mandarin Chinese, and Arabic.
You can feel good knowing that raising bilingual children will provide them with opportunities that reach far beyond childhood.
Creating Bilingual Minds – a TedX Talk by Naja Ferjan Ramirez
If you want even more information about bilingualism in young children and babies, check out this TedX Talk titled Creating Bilingual Minds by Naja Ferjan Ramirez.
She discusses why babies and young children all have the capability of mastering two languages at once, as well as the benefits of growing up in a bilingual environment.
Bilingualism – The most precious gift you can give your child
As you can see, there are so many benefits to raising bilingual children.
I, of course, am partial to Spanish, but any language whatsoever is invaluable in so many different ways.
Bilingualism is truly one of the most precious gifts you can give your children, for both now and in the future.
So go ahead and don’t be afraid to start teaching your child another language!
Not sure where to start? Books are a great way for the whole family to learn Spanish! Check out my recommendations of the best Spanish books for kids here.
Have you taught your child Spanish or another language? Would you like to? Comment below with your thoughts and/or questions. I’d love to hear from you!
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