Bilingualism a journey worth every step of the way.

Raising a child bilingual will not always be easy. There will be days where you feel like teaching a second language will make no difference; that your child doesn’t want to talk the minority language; or that the second language is confusing them because they are using both at the same time.

Surprisingly, the latter actually means that your child is dominant in both languages. The phenomenon is called “code-switching” and according to research many normal developing bilingual children do this (King & Fogle, 2006). As for the other two: Don’t give up. Continue reading

Bilingualism is good for the brain.

Imagine this: you are 4 years old and live in Australia. Your mum is Dutch and your dad is Australian. Your mum has always spoken Dutch with you so you know that when she wakes you up in the morning, you’ll be speaking Dutch. But then when dad walks in you’ll have to change to English and this will happen a couple more times during the day.

Sounds exhausting? It actually isn’t. Research has found that young children have the ability to learn two languages simultaneously as well as to switch between the language systems, or “sound systems” without a problem (APS, 2013). According to an interview with Professor Clyne, a passionate advocate for bilingualism as well as an academic in the field, the constant switching develops strong problem-solving and cognitive skills which include flexibility, attention and memory (, 2006). Young children who learn a second language at home or in a social community develop a stronger executive control over these skills than monolingual children. This is because they have to monitor their two languages consistently. While they use one, they have to inhibit the other and vice versa. They need to pay attention to their environment and be flexible enough to switch between languages when needed (Nicolay & Poncelet, 2015). Continue reading

Bilingualism is a gift for life.

A good Australian friend of mine is a son of Italian parents and grandson to Italian grandparents yet he was not taught Italian. Fair to say that his parents both speak a different dialect, but his situation made me wonder. He told me that his parents chose not to teach him the language because they used to be bullied for being different. “They wanted me to grow up as Aussie as possible. I understand where they are coming from but not knowing Italian feels like I have missed out in terms of connection with my grandparents, the rest of my family and part of my culture.”

Although close to a quarter of the Australian households speak a foreign language at home, there are many more children with stories like my friend’s (Australian Bureau of Statistics, n.d.). Raising a child always brings challenges. However, raising a child when one of the parents, or both, speak a different language than the country they live in adds the question of whether or not they should raise them bilingual. Continue reading