Raising bilingual children is a rapidly growing trend among parents around the world. Even celebrity parents like Angelina Jolie and Brad Pitt are hopping on the bilingual baby bandwagon, raising all of their children to speak French as well as English.
Why the sudden surge in interest in raising bilingual children? First of all, being bilingual is a great advantage in today’s globalized societies. What’s more, there are a great variety of benefits to teaching children languages from a young age.
The Benefits of Bilingualism
Besides playing a valuable role in a child’s development, bilingual children can also use their linguistic skills to help them later in life. Having knowledge of more than one language is becoming increasingly important in today’s world. Globalization and increased cultural exchange has put people of different linguistic backgrounds in greater contact than ever before.
Bilingual children can use their skills as both youths and adults to help them communicate with a more diverse array of people. In addition to broadening an individual’s cultural contacts, bilingualism can also be an asset in the job market. Many employers — especially those geared towards international audiences — prefer to hire individuals capable of speaking more than one language.
The growing population of Spanish speakers in the United States, for example, has created an enormous demand for bilingual Spanish-English employees in a variety of fields. The number of viewers of TV shows in Spanish, for example, has grown to rival that of English-language program viewers. From entertainment to education, media and medicine, professionals with Spanish and English capacities are in demand in the US.
Why Learn Languages Young?
Although it is certainly possible to learn a new language at any age, it’s long been known that learning languages comes easier to people when they are younger. Parents who hope to raise bilingual children are best advised to start second-language instruction when the child is still young.
Bilingual children also have the advantage of being better able to learn other languages later in life. It has been shown that individuals who already speak a second language find it easier to learn additional languages. Given this, bilingual children may increase their opportunities to becoming trilingual in the future.
Bilingual Babies: Explaining the Growing Trend
Given the many benefits to raising bilingual children, it should come as no surprise that more and more parents are interested in teaching their kids a second language. An article by Times Online discusses the growing trend of raising bilingual children and notes a number of studies conducted in recent years regarding bilingual children.
One such study reveals that more than nine of 10 parents said they find it important to teach children languages. What’s more, one in five parents or parents-to-be is already raising their children bilingual or planning to do so.
Raising Bilingual Children
So how are parents tackling the challenge of raising bilingual children? According to the National Centre for Languages (CILT), almost four in 10 parents intend to enroll their children in a bilingual school or afterschool program.
Meanwhile, a 2003 survey conducted by YouGov shows that nearly 25 percent of parents surveyed plan on speaking to their child in a second language.
According to the Times article, the most popular second languages for bilingual children is French, with Spanish and German coming in second and third. No matter what language parents choose to teach their children, there is no doubt that raising bilingual children has a positive impact on the child’s present and future development.
As more people learn of the benefits of being bilingual, it’s likely that more and more parents will follow in the footsteps of Angelina and Brad and choose to raise bilingual children.