Let’s face it – teaching kids a language other than English in an English-speaking world is difficult.  It requires a lot of persistance on behalf of the parent(s) or caregiver(s).  And I’ll have to admit, sometimes I question whether I’m doing the right thing.  I remember when my son first started in a preschool: he was 2 1/2 years old and he didn’t speak very much. The majority of the words he did speak were Telugu words. I had to give his teachers a “cheat sheet” so they could understand him.  Also, at playdates, I sensed he was having trouble communicating with kids his age.  I wondered whether the bilingualism I was pushing for at home  was somehow stifling him.  Was he scared to talk because he didn’t know which language to speak? It is so very hard to watch your child suffer in the speech department.

But it’s hard to dispute the scientific evidence that learning multiple languages is a tremendous benefit to children.  Yes, children may have difficulty at first, but they (always) eventually catch up to their monolingual peers.  In fact, a recent study pubished in Science Magazine concludes that 12-month-old bilingual infants acquired two languages in the time in which monolingual infants acquired one.  More importantly, the bilingual infants were able to do this because they quickly became more flexible learners.

The study is a fascinating read as to how infants learn speech patterns.  Here is a link to the abstract: (we can’t reproduce the full text article due to copyright, but you can follow the links to purchase the article).

As Charlemagne once said: To have another language is to possess a second soul.

And here’s an update on my son: at 3 1/2, he speaks English to everyone and Telugu to me – he is able to switch between the 2 seemlessly. Now, of course, I’m worrying about my 11-month-old daughter…


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3 Responses to “The benefits of being bilingual – Science Magazine”

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