Wednesday, March 28, 2007

Raising Bilingual Children

One of the nicest surprises, in rearing our children in Argentina, has been the ease in which my wife and I have been able to rear them in a bilingual environment. Obviously, the number one reason behind this success is that both of us where on the same page on this one.

What has also helped is that my in-laws have also been supportive. In fact, they probably would have looked badly on us if we did not do it this way. This is slightly different experience from Miss Cupcake (fellow expat Blogger in BsAs), where her in-laws did not seem comfortable with the idea of a bi-lingual, multicultural upbringing.

Our first daughter is completely bilingual. You would be hard pressed to hear an accent in either language she speaks. She also started speaking early in age at about 10 months old. Our second daughter started speaking later and she is tending to favor Spanish (Castellano is what they call it in Argentina). We are not concerned though. We just have to make sure that we always talk to her in English. In fact, we not only talk to her in English, but the majority of the books that they have are in English and when we go to the movies together it is always non-dubbed, original language features and whenever they watch TV it is in English.

We did hear from some people telling us that they thought our children would get confused being exposed to two languages and therefore would start learning to speak at a later age. Our experience with our first daughter really tossed that argument out the window. In all fairness, our first daughter had more exposure to us because we were not that busy with our business. Our second daughter does not have the same amount of hours with us speaking English in comparison. I always felt in my gut that somehow that theory about confusing babies with two languages or more was just wrong.

I just read an article on a study that was done on bilingual children. They wanted to know if their brains were different from monolingual children. What they found was that their brains process information in exactly the same way as monolinguals do but they take advantage of more of that part of the brain´s capability.

"The present findings are significant because they show that the brains of bilinguals and monolinguals are similar, and both process their individual languages in fundamentally similar ways. The one fascinating exception is that bilinguals appear to engage more of the neural landscape available for language processing than monolinguals, which is a very good thing."

What this means is that your brain is actually enhanced by being exposed to two languages or more. I no longer have to rely on just my gut instinct! Apart from studies there are also on line resources for those considering raising bilingual children:

Multilingual Children’s Association
Raising Bilingual Children: The First Five Steps to Success
Bilingual Parenting in a Foreign Language
Linguistic Society of America

Last but not least, for those of you in Argentina. There is an American woman who is a wonderful educator. In fact, she worked at the Lincoln School in BA and now she has started a workshop in English for kids between the ages of 4 and 9. This is an English Literature Workshop for Children and I cannot praise Beth enough. My daughter just loves going to her workshop. She organizes the workshop around a celebrated book that she reads to them and then they enjoy activities related to the book they just read.

If you have bilingual children you just have to try Beth’s workshop. You can write to her at
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