Speaking in tongues

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Speaking in tongues
Mother holding daughter (6-7) in park

For better social and cognitive development, parents should interact with children in their native language

If you’re a bilingual family, learn to celebrate your native language instead of sidelining it. Studies done all through the last century seem to suggest that when children learn to speak a different language, the mind develops executive control, or the ability to effectively manage higher cognitive processes, such as problem-solving, memory, and thought.

While several homes in Australia are inherently bilingual, most parents tend to ignore communicating with their children in the native language, citing the reason that they were afraid they would confuse them. The results are exactly the opposite say language specialists. Research shows that children with strong first language skills are more ready and able to learn a second language, and it’s difficult to build a second language if the first language foundation is not supported while the second language is being learned.

Other studies show that bilingual children are better able to focus their attention on relevant information and ignore distraction.  They also tend to be more creative and better at planning and solving complex problems than monolinguals. One study showed that the onset of dementia was delayed by four years in bilinguals compared to monolinguals with dementia.

To literally prevent a child from learning their native language will only hurt the child’s language growth, but will have negative effects socially as well – not knowing their native language may make them feel less at home with their own extended family that speaks the language.

If children grow up and decide they don’t value the language and never uses it, that is their choice to make.  But to fail to pass the language along is an injustice to the child.

~ Try ensuring verbal interaction around homework in the native language. Give the instructions in the native language.  Give explanations or clarify questions in the native language.

~ In everyday conversation and family routines, during family outings and celebrations, speak your native language.  Children need to hear quantity and quality language input in order to have strong language skills.

~ The most important things in language development are exposure and need. If children are exposed to a language in a variety of circumstances with many different people from the time they are born, and if they feel they need the language to interact with the world around them, they will learn it.

~ One problem can be balance. Children need to hear both languages often and in a variety of circumstances.

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