In today’s article I’m going to answer the question “what is bilingual education?” and to tell you about benefits of bilingual education in early childhood.
So, bilingual education is teaching a person to speak both native and foreign languages. As for children (and adults as well to some extent), it can be done in two ways:
– exposure of a child to both languages in his family;
– exposure of a child to the mother tongue in his family and teaching a foreign language by an educator or a nurse.
In the first case, parents should decide what language each of them will talk to a child and not to switch roles until their child is 4 years old. Up to this age the child will surely confuse words, but his speech will be clearly differentiated into two languages afterwards.
In the second case, a nurse or an educator should fluently speak the foreign language the child is taught to speak. And they must speak only that language with the child; they must “live” in this language environment with him: play, draw, sing, read fairy-tales only that foreign language. The difference between nanny and educator is that an educator only plays with the child speaking foreign language one-two hours a day, and nanny speaks that language almost 24 hours in absolutely different situations thus expanding the child’s vocabulary.
Now let’s consider some research studies on bilinguism
Over the centuries, philosophers, scientists and art experts have been fascinated how powerfully language influences the development of human potential.
Here we see some correlations:
– development of human language encouraged the development of human brain;
– evolution of the brain promoted the increase of vocabulary, due to which the ability was developed to think in concepts that are constantly getting complex.
In order to formulate this correlation between language and human knowledge many theories have been offered in linguistics throughout the years.
According to the principle of linguistic relativity, culture influences the formation of language that, in turn, influences the formation of thinking and behavior.
All linguists and sociologists stand by the fact that realization of human potential is definitely affected by language development.
Today, like some time ago, a person is believed to have good intellectual abilities if he masters one or more languages.
Not so long before, a person was considered to be intelligent if he could write, read, and speak a language complying with all its subtleties and nuances.
Even nowadays, when we all understand that intelligence is not linked solely to these skills, traditional education is still judging a person by his ability to speak intelligently.
Benefits of bilingual education
There are two terms in which adults consider the advantage of learning a foreign language:
– personal benefits: increased competitive ability or professional opportunities;
– less beneficial advantages: to be more respected or learn about other cultures.
But real advantages of learning a foreign language are much broader than these.
If we compare bilingual and monolingual children, we’ll see that bilingual children outperform their monolingual peers in such amazing ways:
– they are much more creative;
– they solve problems in much better ways;
– their writing and speaking skills are richer and more inventive;
– they learn and understand grammar much better;
– they get higher scores when taking certain IQ tests.
And more surprisingly, even young children differ greatly. According to researches babies raised with two languages from birth show better cognitive skills in comparison with their monolingual peers. They learn faster by adjusting more quickly to new stimuli. When a baby hears two different languages from birth, foreign language appears to be this very stimulus that activates baby’s neural pathways thus boosting his cognitive abilities. Actually, bilingual children have constant advantages in both verbal and non-verbal information processing.
You can also be interested in ways of teaching your baby both native and foreign languages. Please check out tips for early childhood education and the list of games you can play with your baby throughout his first year of life.