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Raising Children Bilingual

Photo: WOW Turkey
by Beril Bayrak Bulucu, MD

As cultural diversity increases, more and more families are raising their children bilingual. Whether it be due to difference of origins , an effort to raise children as `world citizens`, or for cultural awareness :we know today that bilingualism is good for children.

A lot of families worry about language delay due to bilingualism. Actually research shows that bilingual raising does not cause language delay. Bilingual children may say their first words later or acquire language skills differently but there is no language delay as things are defined today.

Some people wonder if bilingual raising causes language confusion. Research shows that it does not. Children who are bilingual may use words from different languages in the same sentence but this only shows the mastery of the both languages and they eventually can separate languages pretty well.

What does bilingualism cause in the brain? Does it make our kids brighter? Increase their intelligence. This belief is not true either. Bilingualism does not effect the child`s overall intelligence but it helps the child  gain a lot of important skills .For instance there is evidence that bilingualism increases the awareness of language as a system (called metalinguistic awareness) and also cognitive processing. In other words they are more aware of language as a system  and are more able to process knowledge in that system. But these skills are also related to the language and literacy level of the child. Not all children are the same.

How should we teach the child two languages? OPOL (One parent one language ) approach is very common and works well in many cases. Especially if parents are fluent in different languages , it is advisable  that they use the language that they are most fluent in. Usually this approach works well for children but occasionally it can cause monolingual passivism- avoidance of one of the languages. This situation is usually temporary.

However there are other approaches in addition to the one parent one language and they can be effective as well , depending on the circumstances. Minority language can be spoken at home whereas majority language outside of the home.

The most important concern is the amount of exposure. Children should be exposed to a language more than 30% of the time, to be able to learn it.

There is less research about multilingualism but,a lot of children do well being raised with more than two languages as well.

There is a critical window for teaching a language which is 0-3 and children below 3 learn language in a very amazing way. They are in a way super learners and it is important to use their potential during this period especially if we want them to be bilingual.

Of course some children have difficulty with speech either due to inherent/genetic speech delay or autistic spectrum disorders. These are not caused by being exposed to more than one language. And children with a speech delay can be raised bilingual as well, and this may improve their language acquisition. My personal belief is that even though bilingualism is alright, multilingual raising can be somewhat stressful for children who have a problem with language to start with.

As the world is getting smaller and smaller, bilingual raising has many advantages for the child. One is of course the social advantage, because he will be able to communicate with a lot more people and be exposed to a lot more cultural differences. The other one is the fact that they will have better language skills, even thinking skills. And research proves that none of the previously believed myths  about bilingualism hold true. No, they won`t speak late. They won`t be confused. They will just learn differently but this is quite alright.



 




Kid's Guide to Living Abroad
Raising Children Bilingual
Children and Drama
Which Illnesses are Going Around
Summer and Child Health
Back to School and Illness
Infant Feeding and Lifelong Health
Swine Flu Experiences So Far
Crafts for Kids
Developing Self-Respect in Children
Fun Food
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Latest comments about this article

 By snt  30.9.2009

Hello, I´m helping out some friends to look for a native English Speaker, to talk to a baby (he is almost 1 yr.old) and play with him in English, 3-4 hours each day of the week(except weekends). The baby is an American citizen(born abroad), so the parents want to raise him bilingual. The baby already has a baby-sitter, and there is a cleaner at the house full time too, so this person will only be an ´English conversation buddy´ for the baby. They will pay a salary for this part time job. It is in Istanbul - Anatolian side. Please contact me at 533-2844764 if you are interested, or email [email protected] Thank you so much!

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Moms & Kids Corner
Kid's Guide to Living Abroad
Raising Children Bilingual
Children and Drama
Which Illnesses are Going Around
Summer and Child Health
Back to School and Illness
Infant Feeding and Lifelong Health
Swine Flu Experiences So Far
Crafts for Kids
Developing Self-Respect in Children
Fun Food
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For Kids - Ankara

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