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Bilingual Kids Flex Their Brains

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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

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Share Your Thoughts

Posted on: 12/27/2010 10:59 PM

Posted by: NJ c

City: New Jersey

As this site severely limits the length of comments, I broke my contribution into multiple parts -- backtrack to Part I. Also, I assure you my remarks were a lot more literate before Nestlés filter stupidly deleted the original puntuation -- such as parentheses, semicolons and quotation marks!

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Posted on: 12/27/2010 9:39 PM

Posted by: NJ c

City: New Jersey

[Part V] Learning a second language is one thing and the ability to function well in foreign environments is obviously desirable. But embracing other cultures and global citizenship -- as the good doctor extols above -- are obvious and recurring memes in the lexicon of the Left and neither Juicy Juice, nor its parent Nestlé, should be promoting that ideology.

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Posted on: 12/27/2010 9:37 PM

Posted by: NJ c

City: New Jersey

Lastly, I would address the following quote from the article: Youll spur brain development and broaden your childs perspective by embracing another culture. As a parent, I want to make my child a citizen of the world, Pearson says.

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Posted on: 12/27/2010 9:35 PM

Posted by: NJ r

City: New Jersey

[Part III] And if the premise of this article is universally correct, why do *all* of the available statistics indicate that Hispanic children -- a great many of whom are bilingual -- perform significantly worse than either their monolingual white or often bilingual Asian counterparts? Is this where we resort to the old fallback of socioeconomic differences?

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Posted on: 12/27/2010 9:32 PM

Posted by: NJ c

City: New Jersey

[Part II] Nowhere is the possibility acknowledged or addressed that bilingual homes can present challenges or outright *disadvantages* to children and their development. To express but one concern, ever hear of the expression jack-of-all-trades, master of none? Could this concept apply to languages?

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