The advantages of bilingualism
Bilingualism means being able to conduct aspects of everyday life in two languages.
Bilingualism is much more common in other countries than it is in Britain. It is estimated that between 60% and 65% of people in the world use at least two languages in their everyday lives.
Children are born with the ability to become bilingual and multilingual. There is more than enough room in the brain for two or more languages.
The advantages of being bilingual
Some of the potential advantages of bilingualism and bilingual education currently publicized are:
- Wider communication (extended family, community, international links, employment).
- Literacy in two languages
- Broader enculturation, a deeper multiculturalism, and two ‘language worlds’ of experience
- Greater tolerance and less racism
- Thinking benefits (creativity, sensitivity to communication).
- Raised self-esteem
- Security in identity
- Increased curriculum achievement
- Easier to learn a third language
- Economic and employment benefits
‘A Parents’ and Teachers’ Guide to Bilingualism’, Professor Colin Baker, International Expert on Bilingual Education
3 Congitive Advantages
The educational benefits of bilingualism are well documented. It is widely accepted that children speaking two languages seem to have a greater facility for handling all aspects of the thought process. Bilingualism can also enhance a child's prospects of successfully learning other languages.
Is the bilingual child slower in learning to talk?
No strict rule can be laid down as to when a child begins to talk but it is usually between the age of eight and fifteen months. Generally girls talk a little earlier than boys and the first child in the family tends to begin to speak earlier than the second or third child. There is no evidence that the child who is spoken to in two languages from birth utters his / her first words later than the child who is spoken to in only one language. There is a danger however that if a child is slow in beginning to speak, relations or health professionals might try to persuade parents that this is because they are speaking two languages to him / her and wrongly advise that they should switch to only using English.
Does the bilingual child have equal proficiency in both languages?
Equal proficiency in two languages is rare. Normally a person goes through periods when one or other language is dominant and bilinguals are usually more comfortable speaking about certain topics in one rather than the other of their two languages.