Raising a multilingual child can become a significant challenge for parents who haven't prepared for the reality of teaching their kid more than one language. But there are so many benefits to knowing many languages that all this effort will definitely pay off and your child will be forever grateful for it. Here are some key pros and cons of raising a multilingual child you should know before deciding to go for it.
It's the simplest way to learn a foreign language – hundreds of hours spent on language classes won't make up for language skills a child can acquire during infancy. Growing up with multiple languages is an effortless way to learn them. It's just natural and kids can't tell the difference between them as clearly as you do – they just use them to get their point across.
Your kids will have an easier time at school – since in most countries, it's mandatory to learn foreign languages, your child might benefit from this head start.
You'll help your child in learning new languages in the future – all the linguistic skills they acquire as babies will later help them to see differences in sounds, stress, rhythm, intonation, syntax and even grammatical structures.
Multilingualism helps to develop better reading and writing skills, but also analytical, and social skills.
Kids who know more than one language will feel at ease in different circumstances – they'll become flexible and adaptable, increasing their confidence in social situations.
Children who are multilingual are almost never ethnocentric and have high acceptance of cultural differences.
Multilingualism opens the door to interesting career prospects – to put it simply, knowledge of foreign languages is a skill in demand.
If your native language is different from the language used by the community surrounding you, teaching your child your language will help to create a strong bond and keep your heritage language alive.
It's tough – everyone has an opinion about it and won't hesitate to share it with you. There are lots of myths circulating about raising multilingual children, but research proves that they're simply wrong.
Some claim multilingual children start to speak later – there exists no scientific evidence that proves it, but many parents still claim that it does happen. It makes sense that a child learning two or more languages starts to speak fluently a little later, doesn't it? A small childhood lag is nothing compared to knowing two or three languages when reaching adulthood.
There's a risk of mixing languages – this is a common, but temporary phenomenon in children learning more than one language. It disappears later on as their vocabulary increases. Make sure to be constant and patient in your communications.
Raising a multilingual child requires more effort from parents – this one is a certain risk. It's a commitment parents need to follow through if they want their child to be multilingual. Consider it like a long-term investment. Expect to provide encouragement and struggle to find occasions for exposing your child to the languages they're learning. Develop a routine and stick to it. Make it a habit to talk in a language and keep it on.
Reading and writing skills – teaching a child to read and write in different languages is quite a task. The academic load required for reaching full literacy in all these languages is very large. Consequently, it's more work for parents. Consider the difficulty of learning different alphabets that is part of learning to write in another language.
Evaluate all these pros and cons, and you'll be on your way to making the most out of the opportunity to raise a young polyglot – a skill that will have a great positive impact on their adult life.
About the Author: Sophia Mest is a Content Manager at BizDb, where she aspires to put her writing passion into practice and spread her words across the world. She spends her free time travelling and exploring the wonders of nature. Follow her on Twitter @MestSophia