In this country where I’m living now, or to be more specific, the state where I am now living, Colorado, I have developed a new hobby, thanks to my husband. I am talking about skiing! Even though I have only gone to ski two times, I already consider myself a “ski addict”.
The second time we went to ski, I saw a couple with their two year-old child. The husband was American and the wife was Argentinian. I noticed the mom talking to her child in Spanish and the Dad in English. It was marvelous to see how the kid was making the switch and answering them both in each language.
In just two years, this child was able to identify the language and to quickly answer adequately. This was living proof of “brain plasticity”.
New articles in the neuroscience field (the science of the brain) show us that a newborn baby is able to discriminate between sounds of any language and learn them. When he is a year old, however, small monolinguals lose this ability and specialize only in the sounds of their native language. However, those who are rise bilingual, often because their father and mother are of different origins and speak to the child in their respective languages, still show a cerebral response to sounds of these languages. (Bilingual and Monolingual Baby Brains Differ in Response to Language, 2016. Institute for learning and brain sciences, University of Washington) to learn more about this research click here
To me, this research was not a surprise. As a teacher, kids in my previous classrooms had parents who were Italian, French, Swedish, and Japanese. These parents talked to their child in their native language and their child responded to them in that language. Living in a Spanish-speaking county, they naturally learn the language in order to communicate within the community and with friends. And at the same time, these children received a formal education in English school where classes were in English. With all this going on, these kids were able to make the switch of languages based on whom they were talking to.
Bilingual people have a different brain structure that gives them a better capacity when it comes to concentration. Being bilingual helps you to make faster and accurate decisions. José R. Alonso, Neurobiologist. University of Salamanca, 2017.
There is a reason for this. When little bilingual children need to separate both languages to avoid any interference when talking or listening, this process uses the same nerve cells that the brain uses to make quick decisions.
Benefits of bilingual education
- Ability to communicate with more people (family and work)
- Ability to read and write in two language
- More creative
- Greater capacity to concentrate
- Better attention span, memory, and problem solving skills
- Greater resilience against cognitive deterioration caused by age or brain injury
- Ability to adapt to different situations
- Greater appreciation of other cultures
- Greater ability to put oneself in the position of other people (tolerance and respect for human beings)
- Greater security (self-esteem)
- Greater resilience with environmental changes
- Advantage in getting a job and receiving more economic remuneration
Being bilingual has its perks. So don’t limit your child by only speaking one language. Even if you live in a country where the native language is English, always keep the family native language present, not only for customs and cultural pride, but also for all the advantages that your child can have with the domain of both languages.