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Every parent knows the anticipation of waiting to hear a child say their first words. Watching children find their voices and learn to express themselves is one of the most satisfying parts of being a new parent. In many families, children aren’t just learning one language… they may be learning two or three. In some families, parents have different native languages. In other cases, parents simply want children to have the benefit of bilingual education from birth. There are good reasons to expose children to multiple languages early. As long as you’re aware of the challenges, early bilingual education can benefit your child for the rest of their lives.
One of the benefits of being bilingual from an early age is that it helps us to process information more quickly so that we can make decisions. This is true even for very young children. In one study, children who had been exposed to multiple languages from birth were able to recognize and adapt to new circumstances more quickly than children who had only been exposed to one language.
In another study, researchers at The University of California at San Diego found that being bilingual actually delayed the onset of dementia and dementia-related symptoms in older people. In this study, researchers looked at people who didn’t necessarily have complex jobs or lots of education. They found that simply knowing and navigating two languages, even if you use one of them most of the time, was enough to help make the brain more resilient later in life.
In order to get these benefits, though, it’s important to understand that picking up two languages at once can have its challenges. Specifically, children who are learning two vocabularies and two grammar systems at once may advance more slowly in the beginning than children who are only learning one language. This makes sense when you consider that a child who is only learning English might pick up ten English words in a month, but a child who is learning English and Spanish might master five English words and five Spanish words in the same month. This can make it appear that teaching a child a second language is impeding their ability to learn the first one. However, studies confirm that bilingual children eventually catch up with and often surpass their monolingual peers in language skills. The important thing is simply to be aware that bilingualism is more work, cognitively speaking. So very young children may need more time to catch on.
Ultimately, the benefits of being bilingual far outweigh any short-term inconveniences. As studies increasingly demonstrate the perks of speaking multiple languages, we can imagine teaching languages to children not only to increase their Ultimately, the benefits of being bilingual far outweigh any short-term inconveniences. As studies increasingly demonstrate the perks of speaking multiple languages, we can imagine teaching languages to children not only to increase their