Have you considered bilingual education for your child? It’s growing in popularity, and for good reason – there are concrete benefits for children who learn to speak and read two (or more!) languages.
Here are our top four benefits of bilingual education:
1. Improved Attention and Self-Control
Today’s world is heavily virtual, and frequent screen time has led to an increase in stimulation along with a decrease in attention span. Bilingual education serves as a sort of counterprogramming – switching between languages activates the same areas of the brain that are active in applying self control and maintaining attention.
Children who are regularly exposed to two languages have improved executive functioning, longer attention spans, and greater self-discipline.
2. Easier Adaptation to New Environments
Have you ever brought your child into a new environment, and they just seemed to freeze, unsure of what to say or how to behave?
This happens to all children, but multilingual children more easily understand that different languages and cultures have different rules. This concept can help them adapt flexibly to change and a variety of social settings.
This isn’t just something parents observe, it’s actually proven by research.
A University of Connecticut study found that this improved social flexibility again comes down to the brain’s ability to transition between two languages. As children’s brains “switch between two languages, they develop the ability to adapt to new environments, cope with change, and attend to others’ perspectives.”
3. Stronger Ties to Family and Culture
Children who master foreign languages maintain closer bonds with their family and culture, which can help them develop a stronger sense of identity.
The benefits extend outside of the child to their entire family, encouraging families to keep their native languages alive and maintaining special family traditions.
Just imagine how special it is for a non-English speaking grandparent to be able to seamlessly communicate with his or her grandchildren. In these cases, bilingual education helps tie the generations together, creating special relationships and strengthening the family bond.
4. More Opportunities for Making Diverse Friends
Speaking multiple languages allows students to connect with children from a greater variety of backgrounds and cultures, something especially important in today’s incredibly diverse world.
Talking about different languages and cultures encourages students to open up to others and understand different cultures and visions. These are essential skills, especially in today’s world.
Further, bilingual schools tend to have more diverse populations, and regular exposure to people different from themselves help children become more comfortable with those differences.
On top of this, bilingual education promotes the development of empathy, because “young children being raised bilingual have to follow social cues to figure out which language to use with which person and in what setting. As a result… bilingual children as young as age 3 have demonstrated a head start on tests of perspective-taking and theory of mind — both of which are fundamental social and emotional skills.”
So, a bilingual environment doesn’t just help kids have relationships with other children from diverse backgrounds, but actually encourages strong, lasting friendships.
Factors to Keep in Mind When Introducing Your Child to Another Language
When is it the right time to start exposing your child to a second language? It’s never too early!
Even if your child isn’t yet speaking, he or she will benefit from hearing multiple languages. It takes 6-7 years to be become fully fluent in a new language, so the earlier your child gets started, the better.
Quality is Critical
Exposure alone is great, but quality is essential for your child to get the full benefits of dual languages. Authentic instruction is key.
An easy way to do this is to be sure language instruction comes from a native speaker. Even at a young age, children can recognize the subtle nuances of a language and quality of instruction is important.
Consider an Immersion Program
One of the best ways to merge the two factors above – starting early and high-quality language instruction – is to enroll your child in an immersion program.
Immersion programs offer dedicated instruction in a new language and provide students with significant exposure to this language. Programs vary from 50% of the day to 100% of the school day in the target language.
There are different program models available, with most public immersion programs offering a core curriculum translated in the target language. Other schools such as French or International schools provide a dedicated curriculum blending language and culture.
Get to Know Rochambeau
Think bilingual education is the right path for your child? Then you have to check out Rochambeau, the French International School. It is the premier destination for families in the DC region seeking a French immersion program.
With over 80 ethnicities represented in the student body, instructors who are native French speakers, an 80% of classroom time spent speaking French, there is no better place for children to learn the value of diversity and multiculturalism while gaining the benefits detailed above.
A Rochambeau education makes children multilingual, multicultural, and adaptable – all highly valuable in today’s diverse world.