Raising multilingual children: what you need to know

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When it comes to raising children bilingual or multilingual, there are many myths you may have heard. “Learning more than one language is overwhelming for children” or “children will get the languages mixed up”. The truth is that exposure to more than one language is not only harmless but quite beneficial to your child.

In most cases, people become bilingual by acquiring two languages simultaneously in childhood – usually the result of having parents of different cultural and linguistic backgrounds. People can also become bilingual by learning a second language at a later point in life, either due to living in a foreign country or simply taking an interest in a particular language and going the extra mile to learn it. Regardless of what circumstances lead to it, bilingualism is a very common trait that should be both embraced and nurtured.

The most effortless way to bilingualism or multilingualism is early-childhood language acquisition. Infants acquire a second or third language the same way they acquire their first one, they pick it up from adults speaking around them.  As children grow older, it’s only a matter of learning to read and write to fully realise their dual linguistic competency.

“As aspiring parents of bilinguals or multilinguals, there are several things we can do to improve learning conditions and help the process along,” says Dylan Viñales, Head of Spanish at Garden International School.

“We can maximise our children’s language exposure by having them enjoy films and music in the target language. When they’re a bit older, we promote reading and writing in a number of ways. This not only helps in increasing their language exposure but also raises their confidence in using their second language.”

“Living in and around a vibrant, dynamic and diverse community such as Garden International School is ideal for promoting language learning. Here, bilingualism and multilingualism are the norm, and opportunities for linguistic growth abound”, says Viñales.

Children adapt very quickly to being bilingual and, in most cases, do not face any issues at all. In fact, research has proven that there are several psychological, cognitive and social benefits to being bilingual; according to the American Speech-Language-Hearing Association (ASHA), bilingual children are quick learners, good listeners and problem solvers.

According to Dylan Viñales, the key to success in languages is regular (daily if possible) engaging and comprehensible input – that is at the right level for your child.

“Why not set up a play date with other families and children from your same cultural background? Or have set times when one language is always spoken? The road won’t always be easy, but it’s definitely one worth walking!”, Viñales says.

This post is sponsored by Garden International School. To learn more about the school, visit www.gardenschool.edu.my or call +603 6209 6888. All photos by GIS. Read more about relocation services at GIS.

 

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