Discovering the good things about multilingualism and how it aids our child’s learning experience
What slows down cognitive decline in old age, develops a variety of mental abilities and best to start from early childhood? Learning another one (or two) new languages!
We all have a dominant language in which we think and organise our thoughts. It becomes a stepping stone for us to learn another language or pick up another knowledge matter. Language becomes a medium or bridge for us to access general learning.
The first language we are immersed in often becomes our dominant language, and it wires our brain to use it to sort out abstract thoughts. Strong language skills are often linked to better communications — a library of lexicons and vocabulary to string together to allow a person to articulate their ideas with greater clarity.
When we break down the blocks to learning and mastering a new language, it includes four skills: listening, speaking, writing and reading. Hence, strong language skills have direct academic benefits as the skills required to master a language are beneficial towards general learning.
But there are also other significant benefits to learning a new language. Here are three reasons why we should mix it up at home:
Enhance our child’s developmental skills
There are many developmental benefits to learning a new language or two in early childhood. Through different activities in school and at home, our child understands better how languages work — the sentence structure, new words and the ability to connect them.
Multilingual learners are also better communicators and writers because they better understand how languages function, including their native language.
Research has shown that bilingualism improves problem-solving, promotes abstract thinking, and results in greater brain efficiency. It also enhances our child’s executive functional skills — the ability to think flexibly, demonstrate self-control, focus attention, and tune out distractions. (Bialystok & Martin, 2004; Zelazo, Carlson, & Kesek, 2008).
Sharpens the mind
Other research also shows that bilingual children have better working memory than those who only know one language. Enhanced memory also means that they’re able to have longer retention and process and update information over short periods of time.
When you’re bilingual (or multilingual), you tend to switch languages without really overthinking about it. This, in turns, has a significant effect on their cognitive abilities as they learn new things daily.
With a better executive function in their brain, they also develop this critical skill: inhibition. In simple words, it means that they’re able to tune out things they already know and focus on the new information. They will not only learn a new language faster, but this also applies to other learned skills.
A window into another culture
Far too often, we may also overlook the fact the child’s home language ties them to their family, language and culture. For example, what is available in the English lexicon, may not be in Bahasa Malaysia or Mandarin — the word for a particular food or even common proverbs/sayings. Those are usually stemmed in each culture.
Learning a new language allows us to gain knowledge of another language system, understand different contexts and therefore, trigger different impressions, attitudes and behaviours. It gives our child an opportunity, a window into another culture.
They can tap into their emotional intelligence and understand the choice of tone and why their peers may communicate a little differently from them. As the world becomes increasingly integrated, we have become global citizens.
Thus, it’s a way for us to connect and learn from each other.
Build that foundation from young
As you can see, learning a new language or two is beneficial for our child. To help our child fully grasp the language, it’s essential that we allow for equal exposure time through speaking and listening, even from infancy or early childhood.
Apart from school, we can also practice or incorporate that in daily conversation with them at home. Meanwhile, at school, educators can also integrate that in their lesson plan to encourage them to use the language.
Through building their language proficiency, our child gets a chance to tap into their social skills and at the same time enhance their other learned skills. Language indeed opens doors to a wholesome learning experience for our child.
Gifted Kids Asia Research is passionate about nurturing gifted kids through invested parenting. If you’re keen to learn more on how to optimise your child’s intelligence and potential, you can check out the carefully crafted programs and courses we have in store.
Ng, D., 2020. Right From The Mind: Priming Your Child's Mind Today for Tomorrow's World.