#IMLD: Top 5 Reasons to Choose Bilingualism for your Child

The limits of my language mean the limits of my world.

– Ludwig Wittgenstein

One of the main reasons I started doing seminars for parents was the lack of information among many monolinguals in our community about the benefits of bilingualism. In the expat world, we meet many, many bilingual families, but there are also a lot of families who are strictly monolingual (let’s be honest, they are mostly English-speaking families…). The bottom line is that bilingualism is beneficial to almost all children, so I’d like to give a little run-down of the Top 5 reasons monolinguals should consider using a language in their environment to promote bilingualism for their children.

Reason 1: The experience of acquiring a second language has great knock-on effects for children. Studies have looked at areas as far-ranging as maths and creativity, and found that either bilinguals come out ahead of monolinguals, or they are the same – no negative effects from properly introduced bilingualism.

Reason 2: Learning another language makes you more empathetic to others who are struggling to speak your language. And we can all use a little more empathy in our world.

Reason 3: Especially for expats: Having your kids learn some (or a lot) of the local language helps them feel more at home in the place they live, and they can take a little bit of it with them when you move on.

Reason 4: Acquiring a additional language at a young age (any language!) has the potential to turn your kids into better learners of other languages later on in life.

Reason 5: New research has found that active bilinguals do better in terms of aging – on average, they develop age-related memory diseases (Alzheimer’s) up to five years later than monolinguals.  Managing more than one language is gymnastics for the brain, and keeps it healthy longer.

I am reposting this in support of the “International Mother Language Day 2015″ campaign – if you’d like to share you bilingualism success story please email me.

International Mother Language Day 2015 – #IMLD campaign

Join us in celebrating all our languages with a month of events/posts/ promotions leading up to “International Mother Language Day” on February 21, 2015 (Fathers, your language is included too!). Onraisingbilingualchildren will have special posts on February 12 and 19 on supporting Mother Tongue at home and at school.

Please share links using the #IMLD tag!


International Mother Language Day 2015 – #IMLD campaign.

New Year, New Bilingualism Projects!

To have another language is to possess a second soul.


Read more at http://www.brainyquote.com/quotes/quotes/c/charlemagn182029.html#trkFxkBroweWuwU0.99

As someone who has lived within the academic world since the age of five years old, I always feel like the beginning of September is the “New Year” for me. The last six months have been very busy for me, both personally and professionally (having three kids will do that for you!) and I’ve not been a very consistent blogger…
So here is a new start, with four projects I am working on – What’s happening with CEC (Crisfield Educational Consulting) this year. Continue reading

Let’s talk about Dutch Mother Tongue support (Hup! Hup! Holland!)

So as the rest of the country sits wide awake, glued to the Netherlands-Argentina game, I too am considering the position of Dutch in the world, but the language, not the football team. Don’t feel sorry for me; I’d really rather think about language than watch the World Cup semi-finals… (small confession: the game is on, but the sound is muted – I know the horns will alert me if there is a goal).

So why am I pondering support for Dutch as a mother tongue from my sofa in the Netherlands? Because all over the world there are children being raised with Dutch as one of, but not their only language, for a variety of reasons. Some of them may have a parent on a foreign posting (a footballer perhaps?) and others may have a Dutch-speaking parent (or Flemish speaking!) but are being raised outside the Netherlands. But for whatever reason, these children are in the process of being raised as bilinguals, in a place where schooling is not available in their “mother tongue” or L1. Continue reading

Changing the language about language

I was reading some online information about the recent local elections, to see what the different parties were campaigning about this time. I was reading it in English, because I am lazy that way… I came across a couple of references to special preschools for children with a “language deficiency”. Hm, I thought. I wonder what they actually mean by this? So I went back to the original sources, in Dutch, to see if it was more clear. And unfortunately, it was definitely more clear. The Dutch word used was “taalachterstand”, which does translate to “language delay”. And it was being used to classify children with “one or more non-Dutch speaking parents”. Wow. What a negative way to refer to the language development process of *bilingual* children. What message does it give to children, to be thrust into early preschool, to help them with their “deficiency”? What impact on their self-confidence, and their attitudes towards the other language(s) spoken in their home? And what message does it send to the parents of these children? That having another language is not a benefit, or a gift, but makes you “deficient”? Seriously, it’s like being back in the 1950s. These children are not delayed. They are language learners who are in the process of learning a new language, in addition to the one they are already proficient in!

We know that being raised bilingual is overall a positive thing for children’s development. We know that a key element of the “positive” comes from the development of both languages. We know that successful bilingualism is far, far better than forced monolingualism. We know that positive attitudes and maintenance of the home language are the best route to successful acquisition of a new community or school language.

Why is it that there is so much information available about bilingualism – research-based, solid information, available from many academic and non-academic sources, and yet the “people making the decisions” seem to have read none of it. Not one word. Do the people running these preschools know this research? I don’t know. I hope so, but given the mandate of these schools, it’s seems that they are unlikely to be havens of positive bilingualism. And if this is true, what attitudes are being espoused, and what advice given, by the teachers and administrators in these preschools, if they are coming from the angle of trying to fix deficient children?

There is no excuse for this kind of dialogue about bilingualism anymore. None. So if you have a child that has an “indicatie” for one of these preschools, please, please talk to them about the importance of the language we use about language for, and with, our children. Or just point them in the direction of this post….

San Francisco’s Bilingual Programs as Effective as English Only, Study Finds – Learning the Language – Education Week

This is a great study that shows that offering children education in their two languages (in this case Spanish and English) is as effective, if not more effective at helping them achieve “native speaker” results in English language testing. Yes, that’s right – bilingual education does not mean poor English skills and better Spanish skills. It means better Spanish skills as equal or better English skills! Educators, read this and take it to your admin, to promote the support for mother tongue/L1 support in schools!

San Francisco's Bilingual Programs as Effective as English Only, Study Finds – Learning the Language – Education Week.

International Mother Language Day

February 21 is International Mother Language Day. Recognised by the United Nations as a day

“to promote the preservation and protection of all languages used by peoples of the world

It is a day when all involved in multilingualism, whether personally or professionally, should stop and consider where they can make a difference.

February 21 is not a random date choice for this observance. On this date in 1952, student protesters in Pakistan were killed during a demonstration supporting the inclusion of Bengali as the second official language of Pakistan. Yes, they were shot at by police, for daring to insist on their right to use their “mother language”. Throughout history, minorities have been oppressed and discriminated against through the vehicle of language. All over Europe, regional languages died out due to policies disallowing the use and teaching of languages other than the majority, policies that endure, both overtly and covertly, today (France, I’m looking at you!). And all over the world minority languages are dying out due to lack of support: financial, moral and political. Outright violence in the name of language policy may be rare, but people suffer every day from the effects of government attempts to control and proscribe language use.

We don’t always notice it happening, because it isn’t always “newsworthy”. People are more careful about how they phrase things now – instead of saying “Your language is not as good as ours.” they say “Maybe you should speak more of *our* language to your child, so they can learn it better.” Or they say “Only *our* language is allowed in this school, because it is the only necessary language.”. Or they say “Maybe you should only speak one language to your child, so you don’t confuse them.”.

But no matter how they phrase it, the intention is the same – to proscribe to someone what language is acceptable, and which language they should use. And that is why we still need International Mother Language Day (although I’d argue for a more inclusive name). Because linguistic hegemony is still happening, everywhere, and many people still find it acceptable to infringe on the language rights of minority speakers.

I’m trying to make a difference this year by championing the right of every child to have their “mother language” respected and supported at school, and to bring about better attitudes towards multilingualism within schools.

Where can you make a difference this year?

Languages are the most powerful instruments of preserving and developing our tangible and intangible heritage. All moves to promote the dissemination of mother tongues will serve not only to encourage linguistic diversity and multilingual education but also to develop fuller awareness of linguistic and cultural traditions throughout the world and to inspire solidarity based on understanding, tolerance and dialogue.

—from the United Nations International Mother Language Day microsite