Globalization has led to many families being multilingual today. Parents often want to educate their children in their native language, but also add another language to give them better opportunities in the future. In this context, bilingual education is becoming increasingly important. But how does language development shape children with two languages? This article provides an overview of current facts about bilingual education.
What is bilingual education?
Bilingual education means that a child is educated in two languages from the very beginning. There are several ways to do this. One way is that each parent speaks to the child in his or her own language. Another way is that one language is spoken at home and the other at school or kindergarten. Bilingualism in the family and social environment can also promote language development.
How does language development take shape?
Many people think that children who grow up bilingually often start to speak later than monolingual children. This is a myth, because later language development cannot be attributed to bilingualism.
However, this delay does not mean that those young children have a language development disorder. On the contrary, bilingual children usually develop both languages simultaneously and are often better able to distinguish between them than monolingual children.
Children who grow up in an environment where multiple languages are spoken may be able to switch between languages more quickly than children who grow up in a monolingual environment. There is also no evidence that one language interferes with the other when both languages are used regularly.
Another benefit of bilingual education is that it promotes social integration. Children who speak multiple languages can communicate more easily with people from different cultures and often have a greater openness to other cultures and points of view.
Challenges and recommendations
Of course, there are challenges to bilingual education. A 2020 study took a closer look at the challenges. The results of this research suggest that raising bilingual children requires consistent family collaboration, especially when parents are not native speakers of the target language. At least one parent must necessarily devote significant time and effort to creating a language-friendly environment.
Bilingual education has many benefits for children's language development and also promotes their cognitive development and social integration. However, it is important for parents to be patient and give their children time to learn both languages. A strong language environment in both languages and the promotion of language diversity can help achieve balanced bilingualism.