Yes, it is a Great Idea to Raise them Bilingual! -

The following is a guest post by bilingualism expert, Dr. Fred Genesee, Professor of Psychology at McGill University in Canada.

There are many good reasons for raising children bilingually. First and foremost are personal and family reasons. If members of the immediate family or extended family include people who speak other languages, then it is a benefit for everyone if your child speaks their languages. This is especially true if some family members speak only one language and might be cut off from communication with your child if he/she does not learn their language.

The advantages of being bilingual or multilingual go beyond the family. Research has shown that children who are fluent in two languages also have cognitive advantages in comparison to those who speak only one language.  For example, they are better at solving problems that involve focusing on relevant information while ignoring irrelevant information. Even bilinguals who are 60 or 70 years of age demonstrate these kinds of advantages.

Clearly, there are also advantages that come from knowing other languages when you child is old enough to read and write and use computers. There is a wealth of information available in print, electronic and other media nowadays. The potential for accessing all that information is much greater for those who know more than one language and are limited for those who know only one. Of course, knowing a language like English is important because it is the most widely used second language in the world.  It is widely used for communication about science, politics, financial matters, education, and other topics, and is used extensively on the internet as well as in print and on radio, television, and so on. People who speak additional languages along with English have access to many more of these sources of information than those who know only English.

Finally, there are many personal advantages from knowing additional languages. There are lots of job opportunities in international business and government that require competence in two or more languages. Large international businesses need well educated bilinguals to work in the global market place; governments need multilinguals who can work in embassies and government offices around the world; and many other sectors of the economy (such as education, science) have job opportunities for those who are bilingual. Travel opportunities are also much greater for those who speak additional languages.

This is part of an article that originally appeared in the Jan-Feb 2007 issue of Multlingual Living Magazine (Jan-Feb 2007): under a different title.


Dr. Fred Genesee

Fred Genesee is a Professor of Psychology at McGill University. He specializes in second language acquisition and bilingualism research. In particular, his research examines the early stages of the acquisition of two languages in order to better understand this form of language acquisition and ascertain the neurocognitive limits of the child’s ability to acquire language. Specific topics Genesee has investigated in his research include language representation (lexical and syntactic) in early stages of bilingual acquisition, transfer in bilingual development, structural and functional characteristics of child bilingual code-mixing, and communication skills in young bilingual children. In addition to this, Genesee has investigated second language acquisition in school and the modalities for effective acquisition in school contexts.

{photo by  woodleywonderworks }

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