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Raising Bilingual Children

Raising Bilingual Children gives them plenty of advantages in life, and they learn easier when they are still young.

Early bilingualism + Benefits of raising bilingual children.

Living in South Africa means that our children are exposed to multiple languages throughout their lives. Plenty of babies grow up in a household where they are exposed to at least 2 languages, and the younger children start learning to talk more than one language, the better. Early bilingualism has many benefits, and recent studies show that there is no significant delay in speech or language in bilingual children.

Before the age of 4, children have the remarkable ability to quickly absorb new information and easily grasp new skills. Young children can learn language much faster than adults, thanks to the rapid neural formation and elasticity of their brains. While a child’s prefrontal cortex is still developing, they are more flexible when learning and aren’t as restricted by logical thinking and functional fixedness. Interestingly, by the third trimester, a baby’s hearing is fully developed and they’re already listening. From birth, babies of bilingual moms have shown signs of recognizing both languages.

Some Benefits of Raising Bilingual Children:

  • Bilingual children are often more focused and do not get easily distracted. They also have enhanced cognitive abilities, making them more successful in their education and at performing certain tasks.
  • A bilingual child will most likely find it easier to learn additional languages.
  • Speaking languages that align with your culture and heritage are integral to enjoying community relationships and feeling connected with your identity.
  • Learning a second language increases a child’s awareness of other cultures.
  • Gives your child the opportunity to communicate with and get to know different kinds of people.
  • Your bilingual child will have more job opportunities in their future, widening their horizons.
  • Early bilingualism also ensures your child academic advantages and gives them a head start in their college language requirements.

What can you do as a parent?

As we said before, starting early is the best way to enjoy the benefits of raising bilingual children. The easiest way for a child to become proficient in two languages is to start from infancy or when they are little. This is referred to as simultaneous acquisition, where both languages are spoken to the child regularly. Children learn language by listing to their parents and those around them, so engage with them during playtime and everyday activities. Make sure to speak to them fluently and avoid mixing languages in the same sentences or conversations. Every language has its own unique characteristics, sounds and structure, and in time children will begin distinguishing between the different languages you speak to them in.

Bilingual Families: A Practical Language Planning Guide: (This book has great advice and support for parents who are raising bilingual or multilingual children.

The Mzanzi Kids Multilingual Language Learning App: Created for South African children between 2 and 6 years old, this app stimulates speech and language literacy skills and allows users to switch between 6 languages: English, Afrikaans, IsiXhosa, IsiZulu, Sepedi and Setswana.

At Little Phase Creche, we teach all our students in English, while still embracing their cultural identities and allowing them to express themselves in any language they prefer. 

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