About half the world is bilingual. Yes, you read that right, around 50% of the worldwide population is fluent in two languages. So, if you’re considering having your kid learn a second language, they’ll be in good company.
It’s understandable that you may have certain concerns about having bilingual children. One popular concern parents have is that learning another language may make their kid forget English, their first language. Well, we have great news for you, your child won’t forget their first language by learning a second language. Learning Spanish may even help your child to be better at English. As a matter of fact, learning another language has tons of benefits for your child’s brain.
Why Your Child Won’t Forget English when Learning Spanish
When your kid starts to become fluent in another language they’ll develop something called the “bilingual brain.” The bilingual brain is skilled in processing language and can switch between both languages when needed. Therefore, if your kid who was originally an English speaker becomes fluent in Spanish they’ll be able to understand and respond in both Spanish and English.
Another reason why your kid won’t forget English (or any first language), is that English (or your first language) is all around them. Even if your child goes to a bilingual preschool, they’ll be hearing English there too. They’ll probably be hearing English from you, the television, their friends, and almost everyone they interact with. They won’t even get the chance to forget English! Even if you only speak Spanish at home, if they go to a regular school they’ll hear English there too. The point is – you have nothing to worry about.
What If They Only Speak Spanish?
Maybe you have the opposite concern. Let’s say you’re a parent who is fluent in Spanish and that’s the language you use to communicate with your children on an everyday basis. When they start school you may find that they have difficulty communicating with their English-speaking peers. Should you be worried then? The answer is no. After about a year in an English-speaking school, they will catch up. Children learn languages through communication and constant exposure. They will certainly get that at school. They will be fine!
Another Concern Parents Have About Raising Bilingual Children
My baby is taking too long to speak, is something wrong?
In addition to a child forgetting English, parents also express concerns about their bilingual babies talking a long time to speak. You may be wondering, how can a baby be bilingual if they’re not speaking yet. What we mean is that the parents were exposing their kids to both languages. The children are actually storing vocabulary from both languages in their heads and one day they’ll just start talking, in both languages. So yes it’s true that children exposed to multiple languages may take a little while longer than their peers to speak, but they’ll be fine. If your child does have a learning or language problem, it’s not because they’re learning a second language.
Other Cognitive Benefits of Learning A Second Language
According to Dispelling the Myth of “English Only”: Understanding the Importance of the First Language in Second Language Learning” there are many cognitive benefits to learning a second language such as:
Cognitive flexibility- According to the article, “Cognitive flexibility is the brain’s ability to transition thinking about one concept, dimension, or task to another.” Bilingual children have been shown to have better cognitive flexibility as early as age 2.
Creative Problem Solving- Bilingual kids are found to be more creative problem solvers than their monolingual counterparts.
Advanced metacognitive development- The researchers defined metacognitive development as “higher order thinking and includes having an awareness of one’s own thinking and learning”. This is also linked to bilingual children being more intelligent.
We hope we’ve dispelled some of the myths and concerns surrounding raising bilingual kids. There are so many benefits your children could enjoy by simply learning another language. You don’t have to rely on bilingual preschools, Spanish-speaking babysitters or Netflix in Spanish. Having a language tutor who is qualified is ALWAYS a good idea. Incorporate a tutor or some language classes in your strategy. We can partner with you doing Spanish immersion classes online starting at $12 per class. Contact us at TruFluency Kids Spanish Immersion Online.