5 Benefits of Childhood Bilingualism

Benjamin Lee Wharf, a Yale linguist, was the first person to explore the possibility that bilingualism shapes the way we act and think. Although parts of his famous language theory, the “Sapir–Whorf hypothesis,”, remain hotly debated, many recent studies have supported his theory that bilingualism does have a distinct effect, particularly early in life. Many studies suggest that learning more than one language has the potential to unlock amazing mental capabilities and benefits as children grow and mature.  

Multitasking

Research conducted on 6-year-old test subjects produced some interesting and encouraging results The children were grouped into two even sets: children who were bilingual, and children who were monolingual. Researchers gave the children various tasks designed to test their multitasking abilities. The bilingual children were able to switch their attention between tasks with greater ability and speed. The researchers behind this experiment felt that this type of increased ability stems from the skills and brain development acquired during their language acquisition. They concluded that switching between two separate languages regularly may increase the activity in our brain responsible for multitasking.

Brain Health

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Some researchers liken the brain to a “muscle”, growing and changing as we “exercise” it regularly, making it stronger and healthier in the long run. In a 2011 study, researchers found strong evidence to support the theory that bilingualism can support overall brain health and delay cognitive diseases such as Alzheimer’s Disease and Dementia. Although there is no cure for these diseases, this study suggests that learning multiple languages may increase our “cognitive reserve,” the brain’s ability to use its resources and resist damage. Learning multiple languages is a perfect way for children to  “exercise” and grow important areas of the brain.

Social Growth

Communication is extremely important in the modern world for cultural understanding. As children grow and mature, learning how to interact with different types of people is of huge social advantage. Bilingual children possess great potential for social skills, with an increased sense of empathy, both used in their personal relationships and even in their future careers. Language is the glue that holds society together. To possess greater language ability will provide a child with greater social understanding, skill and increased adaptability (not only linguistic, but a general ability to adapt better in multiple settings).

Abstract Reasoning

As we grow, we begin to think deeper and are capable of understanding more abstract thoughts. Our academics become more oriented towards problem-solving designed to test our reasoning skills and creativity. Studies have shown that children who understood two languages at an early age have an advantage at this type of learning later in life. Using multiple languages grows short-term “working-memory”, a brain tool specifically designed for problem-solving and rapid-fire action.  Bilingual children often show greater brain “flexibility” when it comes to solving problems and finding original answers.

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Many young children often initially struggle with sitting still and focusing on specific tasks. However, as they grow, their attention span often grows with them, allowing them to increase their focus. Some studies show that bilingual children possess a naturally stronger attention span. Even at younger ages, these children often possess the ability to focus on tasks and better understand what’s being asked of them. This is due to improved “executive control,” a cognitive mechanism responsible for mental decisions and focus. Some researchers feel that better executive control in bilingual children results from their ability to quickly see the difference between the words of different languages. By switching back and forth between two languages at a split-second’s notice, these children naturally grow their focus and attention to detail.

Although many new facts about bilingual development are yet to be discovered, many studies suggest that specific benefits come with learning multiple languages. As adults, we often struggle with learning foreign languages. However, language learning is much easier for children as they have an innate gift to do so and they do not compartmentalize in the way we do – language is language. Gifting  your child another language at an early age puts them at great advantage for their future.

For more information on language skills and development, please contact us today.

The Pre School Years and the Importance of Social Emotional Learning

When it comes to learning and culture, your child’s brain is a blank slate. Children learn through socialization from other adults and children in their immediate environment and, through repeated exposure to the people of that culture, they begin to understand those norms and beliefs. In a foreign country, your child learns cultural norms from both you, the parents, and their experiences in that country. Children and young students living abroad have the benefit of encountering different cultures, and therefore have a richer view of the world. Parents who want their children to experience a wider view of culture may consider a more international upbringing for their children.

The Context of Socialization

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The Age of Pretending

Your child’s personality is shaped through the beliefs and attitudes they experience during socialization throughout their development.

As parents, you can steer your child’s development in one direction or another. For example, your child may be naturally musical. If you provide them with musical training, you may find that they have unique musical abilities that they would never have otherwise discovered.

During preschool, children learn through pretending games. They assume different roles and act out scenarios with their peers, assuming multiple attitudes and perspectives. Even alone, children may act out different roles by themselves. Through pretending, children achieve a deeper understanding of what they’ve learned watching adults and peers.

Social Emotional Learning Counts

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All parents want what is best for their child and structured play experiences provide ample developmental benefits. Through structured play, children learn to explore their personalities, understand their culture, and form friendships.

Some children are introverted and less likely than peers to seek out social experiences. For timid children, exposure to regular playtime with peers is particularly important. Introverted children benefit from a nurturing environment with low-key pretending games. Pretend kitchen sets or puppets are great tools for low-key playtime, or even a simple sandbox.

It’s so wonderful as parents to see your young children immerse themselves in play with others and come home excited about the friends they’ve made and the things they’ve learned. Children’s brains develop at an incredibly fast rate, and as a parent, you can witness your child make new discoveries almost daily. Our children remind us of how we first developed our understanding and belief system about ourselves and the world. It’s important to take the time to provide children with diverse experiences so they can have full advantage of this crucial time of education and discovery.

For more details on the importance of social emotional learning in a safe and structured, setting, please contact us today. Your child’s positive development is our primary focus.