Every once in a while I meet someone who makes me consider this point again. It’s usually (as it was this time) someone who says to me that they aren’t bothering to have their children learn another language, because there is “no point because they speak English already”. I’m always a bit taken aback by these statements, and my mind and mouth get bogged down in “but, but, but!’. And then, after the conversation is over, I have what the French call “l’esprit d’escalier” (translates to spirit of the staircase – when you find the great come back just as someone is walking away…) and think of *exactly* what I should have said. So I’m going to use this space today to put my best arguments down “on paper” so I will remember them next time, and hopefully it will be useful to you too. I’m going to put a link in each point, not to a dry academic textbook for you to buy, but to an internet article (from a reputable source) that talks about the point I am making.
1. Bilingual kids are better at math! Really, they are… so if you have ever wished you were better at math (put your hands up!) this is a way to help out your kids. Bilingual kids are better at math and logic, because they are good at processing and analysing, and they have an earlier development of abstract thought. Check out this and other facts in the article Raising a bilingual child.
2. Bilingual kids develop better working memory. Another true fact – being bilingual improves how your brain deals with and stores information. Read about it here: Bilingual Children have a better working memory than monolingual children.
3. Bilingual kids are great communicators. The experience of becoming bilingual helps kids understand the communicative act in a deeper way, and also understand that people can be different, via language, and yet the same.
I can’t link directly to the article as it is a subscription site, but here is a quote from The Multilingual Dividend: Antonella Sorace (Bilingualism Matters) says:
“Hire more multilingual employees, because these employees can communicate better, have better intercultural sensitivity, are better at co-operating, negotiating, compromising. But they can also think more efficiently.”
4. Bilingualism is good exercise for your brain. In fact, it’s so good for your brain that bilinguals show a delayed onset of age-related memory diseases such as Alzheimer’s. Read about it here: The Bilingual Advantage. And it makes us better at multitasking…
5. Bilingualism is a hot commodity on the job market. These quotes are from the same Financial Times article I linked to in #3:
“Multilingualism will be better valued and better leveraged by companies,” says Laurence Monnery, co-head of global diversity and inclusion at Egon Zehnder, the executive search company. “Multiculturalism makes better leaders.”
“Do multilinguals make better managers?” asks Ann Francke, chief executive of the UK’s Chartered Management Institute. “Probably the answer to that question is yes.”
I rest my case.