Why bilingualism?

In much of the Western (especially English-speaking) world, bilingualism is still a bit of a novelty – I’ve often been asked why we are raising our children to speak two (now three) languages. But in reality, far more of the world’s population is bilingual than not. Estimates range from 60-75%, but no matter the exact number, bilinguals are definitely in the majority. So why are so many people bilingual? In much of the world, bilingualism is a way of life – one language at home, one language in the greater community, and often a global (or colonial) language on top of that.  In Africa and India, for example, it would be harder to find a someone who speaks only one language than to find a bilingual. However, for people who do not live in a bilingual culture, why seek out bilingualism? For us (that is me and my husband who lets me have my way in all matters of language), the benefits of bilingualism are simply so unique that I couldn’t imagine making any other choice for my kids.

As an adult, I’ve lived in four countries, and learned two new languages. It’s not been easy, and it isn’t always pretty (to listen to!). By raising my children with more than one language, and the possibility of the transference of language ability to other languages they may choose to learn, I am hoping to open doors for them,  and open their minds to other cultures.

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