Guest post by Keli Allen Garcia of Learn Safari.
Raising children is a wonderful, crazy and daunting adventure that can be overwhelming too. One daunting decision is whether or not to raise our children to speak more than one language. The gift of multilingualism is one of the best things that we can do for our kids as it has a myriad of linguistic and social benefits. Some parents, however, opt not to introduce a second language into the home, for varying reasons. In this post we will debunk three of the most common myths related to raising multilingual kids and more importantly demonstrate solid reasons why raising multilingual kids can be so beneficial.
MYTH # 1: I Will Confuse My Kids If I Expose Them To Another Language
One of the major reasons given for not wanting to teach children a second language is not wanting to confuse them. The old-fashioned notion that children should perfect their first language before introducing a second language comes into play here. The reality is that from the moment of conception, humans are wired to learn language. Even from birth, infants can distinguish between languages, so parents should not worry about confusing their kids! In fact, research has shown that growing up speaking multiple languages has various positive cognitive benefits, including better decision-making skills, increased logical reasoning, and better ability to focus. By teaching your children a second language you are actually improving their brain function, not hurting it!
MYTH # 2: My Children Wont Acculturate If I Teach Them A Foreign Language
When families arrive to a new country there is usually a struggle between the old and new languages and cultures. Parents may want to learn the new language and practice with their children. Other times, it’s the children who quickly acculturate and distance themselves from the culture and language of the family. It’s important for families to realize that it’s okay to have two cultures and that preserving your heritage is important for the well being of your family. Parents will be better able to connect with their children in their native language and children will find themselves to be better connected and centered as they grow up. Exposing and even emphasizing the difference between cultures and languages is a huge advantage when raising well rounded and empathetic children!
MYTH # 3: It’s Too Difficult (Or Impossible) To Teach My Kids Another Language
There are many parents want their children to learn another language, but they don’t think they have the skills necessary to teach their kids. Often, these are second or third generation children of migrants who never learned their family language. For many this is a big regret, and they want their children to have the skills that they don’t. Other times, it is parents who just want to introduce a language in which they do not have a background. We are here to tell you, however, that you can help your child learn another language!
With the advent of new technology, there are many wonderful resources (including Spanish Safari, the app that my team and I are creating), online instructors, curriculums, and even chatting programs that can be used to learn language. Let’s also not discount traditional methods such as language courses and face to face tutors that can help you pursue your goals. And of course, one of the best methods of growing your knowledge of a language is through reading! Finding quality books and spending time reading with your children will go a long way to help them become life-long learners in any language. As long as we are willing to put in the time with our children, learning a new language is fun and a greta bonding experience.
Whether you fall into one of the groups above, or you have already fully committed to raising multilingual children, the most important thing to remember is that your kids need plenty of exposure to the target language. We all need support in the journey-when we have friends and family that will help with our language learning goals makes the process so much easier. A great place to find support is in the online bilingual community BilingualWe, whereyou will find other parents with whom to share your struggles, doubts, questions and successes. You will also find tips, tricks, links, and activities that can help you along your language-learning journey. We hope you explore all the resources available and help grow this lovely community!
What do you think of the above myths? Do you fall (or did you fall in the past) into one of these categories? What issues have you overcome in your language-learning journey? Continue the conversation by commenting below!
Keli Garcia Allen is the Lead Content Creator for Learn Safari and a preschool teacher at a bilingual (Spanish and English) school. She is a graduate from the University of Florida, where she received a B.A. in History and an M.A. in Latin American Studies. After graduation, she became a certified teacher and taught high school and elementary school Spanish. She is a wife and a mother of 2 beautiful girls, who have inspired her in this journey of teaching and exploring language.