Bilingual Kids Flex Their Brains
When it comes to languages, two's a lot better than one.
That's because being in a bilingual household stimulates early brain development and gives children insight into more than one culture. Learning two languages also
develops a sharper ear for sounds and patterns of sounds and helps kids build vocabulary and read earlier than their peers, says Barbara Zurer
Pearson, Ph.D., linguist and author of Raising a Bilingual Child.
But that's not all. Bilingual children do better with developmental exercises, such as sorting shapes and colors in more than one way, and they grasp the mechanics of any
language faster than monolingual children. "Being bilingual makes children more mentally flexible," Pearson says.
Kids Hear Language Differences
Mitze Hurovitz of St. Cloud, Minnesota, remembers when her son, Benjamin, was 1½ and came to her asking for milk, speaking in Korean, her native
language. When Hurovitz told him to ask his dad, who's American, Benjamin automatically knew to ask in English.
Studies suggest that even infants who are months from speaking can distinguish between two languages based on cadence and rhythm, Pearson says.
"I speak to Benjamin in Korean often," says Hurovitz. The payoff is seeing him converse with aunts and cousins during trips to Korea. Being in the
country helped his fluency, but when it flags back home in the U.S., she supplements their conversations with Korean activities on the Internet and
get-togethers with other Korean families.
"Interaction is key," Pearson says. "Learning another language isn't rocket science, but it takes some planning and commitment." By making that commitment, you'll spur brain development and broaden your child's perspective by embracing another culture.
"As a parent, I want to make my child a citizen of the world," Pearson says. "And there's no better way than through another language."
Learn a Language Alongside Your Child
If you're not bilingual but want your child to be, there are lots of resources that will help the two of you to learn a language together:
- Books, DVDs and CDs, which are great to bring on road trips
- Websites such as spanglishbaby.com and bilingualfamiliesconnect.com
- Bilingual relatives, nannies or playgroups
- Exchange students or tutors from a local college
- Community education classes
- Language-immersion day care or preschool programs
- Popular movies and cartoons in another language
Start Your Conversation Today
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