A-Z Raising Multilingual Children series
“Wow! You are raising a bilingual child. It must be easy for you because you speak the language…” a lady on the playground once told me. Is it easy? What do you think?
Parenting is exciting, but we all know that and it can be challenging at times too. Parenting in two languages is definitely rewarding, but it also requires some creativity from us as parents when we are being challenged.
Showing the sous-chef how Chinese people cook eggs, Ecuador
A friend of mine is raising her children in English and French. When we first met years ago she saw me speaking Mandarin Chinese to my two young children and she said to me, “You need to keep doing that even when they are older.” Later, she told me that her mother gave up speaking Farsi to her when she was going through her rebellious “tween” years. She wished that her mother had kept speaking Farsi to her, and regrets that she is no longer able to communicate with her grandmother, who only speaks Farsi.
More than one in five people over the age of five speak a language other than English at home in the U.S., according the American Community Survey. The number of bilingual speakers is only expected to increase in the coming years. The evidence of the cognitive health benefits of being bilingual is encouraging. Speaking another language is apparently like having a brain workout! This, in addition to the many doors opened to multilingual people in their personal and professional relationships.
While you are on this bilingual journey, going through different phases with your child, make sure you are consistent. What you are doing with your child is wonderful and you should be proud of your everyday efforts. As parents, raising a bilingual child is a gift we give to our children.
The gift of learning the new language itself, however, comes with more positive benefits for our children. I call these:
The “Wonders of Raising a Bilingual Child”
“A mind is like a parachute. It doesn’t work if it is not open.”
– Frank Zappa, musician
Jade and Ceramic Market, Taiwan
Learning a new language gives your child an opportunity to see things from a different perspective and provides them a way to experience a new culture. As a result they become more understanding of peers who are from different backgrounds and respect them.
“We keep moving forward, opening new doors, and doing new things, because we’re curious and curiosity keeps leading us down new paths.”
– Walt Disney
Candy Shop, Ecuador
A new Language opens up the world. What kind of food do kids eat in China? How do you hold chopsticks? What is that Chinese musical instrument? When I hear questions like these I also see the sparkling, curious minds. The more curious our children are, the more open they are to learn about the world.
“There are no seven wonders of the world in the eyes of a child. There are seven million.” – Walt Streightiff, writer
Book stall at the Day Market. Taiwan
Ready with her new language, your child becomes a young explorer. In time she will immerse herself in the new culture and its values, while interacting with its people. She will initiate learning on her own with the explorer’s mindset to understand more in the area that interests her with her newly-acquired language abilities.
“Peace cannot be kept by force; it can only be achieved by understanding.” – Albert Einstein
Share a book in Spanish Day, Ecuador
Cross-cultural understanding is an important skill in our increasingly global community. Speaking a new language leads to learning more about a new culture. It helps children to better understand our differences and similarities. Along the way they learn to be more culturally sensitive and approach our diverse world with empathy.
Young Global Citizens
Kindness is the language which the deaf can hear and the blind can see. -Mark Twain
A fishing town in old days experience, Taiwan
When we are raising bilingual children we are also raising global citizens. Exposing our children to diverse books, listening to music from around the world, visiting museums, experiencing cultural festivities, and enjoying ethnic food and travel will all enhance their multicultural awareness. When our children are old enough to do service projects their new language becomes a tool they can use to help out in the community. From observing and serving others they will learn to be kind, humble, and respectful of others.
What is your favorite part of raising a multilingual child? Make sure you check out the “A to Z Raising Multilingual Children” series and learn more from parents who are raising multilingual children just like you.