Apr 5, 2022

Raising Bilingual Children

The term “bilingualism” refers to the ability to use two languages proficiently.

Raising Bilingual Children

The term “bilingualism” refers to the ability to use two languages proficiently. The idea of raising bilingual children is possible for more and more families these days and growing up with more than one language certainly has enormous advantages. Bilingualism has two different routes; balanced bilingualism and semilingualism. “The term balanced bilingualism is used to describe individuals who possess about the same fluency in two languages, while semilingualism refers to those who have deficiencies in both languages compared with monolinguals.” (Marsha Rosenberg, 1996).

Balanced bilingualism offers the ability to speak two languages flawlessly while semilingualism acknowledges some lack of proficiency on the two acquired languages. This might lead to reduced vocabulary, inaccurate grammatical patterns, trouble on thinking or expressing emotions in one of the languages.

It is possible to acquire balanced bilingualism from a very young age. To do that, parents need to discuss about how bilingualism will be accomplished for their children, looking at what language policies will be used by each parent, what is being taught at school, and what areas need to be paid attention outside of school. For example, one parent, one language. Each parent always speaks one language while the other parent speaks another language. Another idea is that both parents speak one language at home and a second language is used at school.

Moreover, parents need to think about how to strike a balance between the languages. If a child attends school in one language all day and has only a short time to hear the other language at home, it is expected that the school language will develop more easily than the home language. Parents must plan for additional time spent using the home language in a range of situations. Rich language experiences in both languages are important for good bilingual development.

Knowing two or more languages really provides children with so many advantages in life. Bilingual children have the advantage of knowing two cultures, of being able to communicate with a larger variety of people, and of possible economic advantages in their future. Research has even shown advantages in thinking skills among bilingual individuals. But choosing to raise bilingual children is a decision that should be carefully considered as it affects children for the rest of their lives. Parents need to consider the child's self identity, self-esteem, schooling options, as well as social factors when thinking about bilingualism.

In conclusion, becoming bilingual is a beautiful gift that parents can give to their children, but the gift must be planned and presented with care for it to be well used and appreciated.

Raising Bilingual Children

Mirella is the owner and director of MCF English Centre and has been teaching English for over five years.