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  • Feb 16 2014

    15 Reasons to Raise a Bilingual Baby

    Having grown up listening to my Mum and Dad speak in Fillipino (Tagalog) to each other, as a Canadian born and raised kid, I later visited the Philippines and wished I had learned the language better so I could speak fluently with my cousins there.  Now that I’ve lived in 7 countries, I do fully appreciate the numerous benefits of speaking as many languages as you can possibly learn. Simply seeing the delight on the faces of locals when you, at the very least, attempt their esteemed mother tongue is gold.

    Do you wonder if you should raise your baby bilingual? If you or your partner (or both) know another language, or you’re willing to learn, then go for it! Following are 15 great reasons you and your baby will love being bilingual together.

    1. It won’t confuse the baby.

    They can tell the difference between languages days after birth, says the latest research. (Toddlers may mix words from both languages while they’re learning, but this won’t cause problems with English later on.)

    2. It stimulates Mom’s brain.

    Days can be long and boring when you’re home with a baby. Grab a book in the other language, or learn a new lullaby on YouTube. Even if you’re fluent, there’s always something you can learn.

    3. It’s cute as heck.

    Kids aren’t necessarily smarter if they speak more than one language, but strangers will be in awe if they hear your baby speaking in another language.

    4. It connects to a culture.

    Whichever side of the family the second language comes from, or if you’ve picked a language from another culture, it’s a way of plugging your whole family into fascinating traditions and customs that don’t always translate well.

    5. It’s fun.

    Think learning a language is all about drudgery? You’ve never done it as a baby! Before age 3, babies soak up language naturally. No need for textbooks or flashcards – watch videos, sing songs, or head out to a bilingual playgroup.

    6. It’s reading.

    Anything you can do to read to your baby and stimulate interest in books – in any language – is a step towards literacy later on. Readers are readers, usually for life.

    7. It’s free.

    Or it can be, depending on the language. Your local public library probably has resources for kids, there are thousands of kids’ videos on YouTube and international TV stations, and there are lots of free ways to connect locally with native speakers, from park play-dates to potluck suppers. Don’t forget good ‘ole iTunes for language learning podcasts and free child language learning audio.

    8. It’s about (extended) family.

    If the second language comes from one side of the family, ask those family members to speak to your baby in their language. They can also help find stories or songs to read or sing aloud, either bouncing on a lap or recording in a video or over the phone if they live long-distance.

    9. It gets the grown-ups talking.

    Just sitting down with your partner to plan out your baby’s bilingual experience is great practice for all the parenting hurdles ahead. Talk about your goals and decide together who’s going to use which language when.

    10. It’s language.

    The more language, the better, when it comes to those crucial first three years. More exposure to any language means your baby will understand more and perhaps be able to express ideas earlier. It may actually give babies other cognitive advantages, Canadian research shows, helping them develop problem solving, listening skills and other abilities.

    11. It’s good parenting.

    Spending time with your baby? Talking, singing, laughing, clapping? In any language, that’s called good parenting, and it will pay off in a lifetime of closeness.

    12. It’s a growth experience.

    For you, that is. Keep a journal, and write down your successes and failures. Approach the task like a professional. You can even network: talk to other parents who are teaching the language if you can.

    13. It’s a job skill.

    Who knows? You may discover a hidden talent for sharing the joys of languages. At the very least, it’ll give you a chance to tap into strategies and resourcefulness that you never knew you had.

    14. It opens up the world.

    When you have a newborn, planning a trip can seem scary, but adding travel as a goal for later on can be a huge incentive to learn or practice the language with your baby. If the prospect of a trip is what motivates you, start planning!

    15. You’ll learn a ton.

    You’re your baby’s first teacher… but your baby will be the most important teacher you’ve ever had. This little person you only met a short time ago will teach you life lessons – and language lessons – you’ve never dreamed of. So go on… pick up the dictionary, grab a storybook, lean over and whisper hola, nǐ hǎo, bonjour or privyet to your baby, and get ready to begin this exciting journey together!

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    Here’s a fun infographic, courtesy of Bilingual Monkeys

    INFOGRAPHIC: The Top 10 Advantages of Being Bilingual (From a Child

     


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