Thursday, July 07, 2005

Bilingual Baby

Maybe it has crossed your mind to teach your new baby Spanish, or another language, as she grows. You have heard that it can be helpful, but you just are not sure. Well, never fear. We are gaining more answers on this phenomenon everyday.

First, know that teaching your child a second language is possible and a great parenting choice. Bilingual children on average learn more quickly than monolingual ones. Bilingualism also helps your child adjust to different cultural backgrounds as it is impossible to learn a language without discussing the culture associated with it.

Bilingualism has many benefits, not the least of which are that your child will be better able to function in an increasingly multicultural world. Instead of his ear turning at the sound of your Mexican neighbors speaking their native tongue, he will be able to pick up at least portions of what they are saying. If you still are not convinced, consider these five reasons to being babbling bilingually to baby.

First, people learn more easily the younger they are. Babies who are exposed to a second language will pick it up even better than a two-year-old, and that two-year-old will be better than a four-year old, and so forth. Most schools begin dual language programs only in high school, and even then, the program will not teach the basics, not fluency. Start now, and your child will have a better chance at becoming fluent.

The newest research shows that children who are exposed to more than one language on a consistent basis have better mental development. These children can separate the language intuitively, and that sharpens their critical thinking skills.

The third reason to bone up on French is that bilingual babies have better communication skills than monolingual ones. Sign language has gained much attention in the press in recent months for its benefit to calm distraught toddlers. Because sign language is indeed another language, it also has these memory-enhancing skills. Babies who sign and speak, just like babies who speak two languages, are able to remember vocabulary and express themselves better.

Children are malleable, but they begin to take a final form by about age eight. That means that you have put your child on the path to learning success or failure by elementary school. Learning a new language before this time can help ensure that your tot runs down the success path.

Finally, actually taking in the language is easier if you begin your child as a baby. Instead of trying to add in language here and there as your child grows, you are teaching him or her the full language early. He will retain more as he grows rather than trying to add in a new language once he knows his primary one.

Parents who are concerned about language confusion can put their fears to rest. There is no proof that children who learn more than one language have trouble separating the two. In fact, if you begin in infancy, their minds sort the languages on their own. The cadences and sounds of each language will be compartmentalized, and children rarely confuse them. Besides, would you really be embarrassed if you had to say, "oh, I'm sorry. He's speaking German today!"
By Julia Mercer

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