In Singapore, it is extremely common to be bilingual. With our respective Mother Tongue and English language, acquiring two languages is something that children are successfully doing all across Singapore.
On top of that, the number of mixed children has also been increasing in recent years. Besides English and Mother Tongue, children are also picking up more than 2 languages due to our multi-cultural society. Research has also shown that a child is most likely able to acquire a new language faster and retain a better understanding of the language before the age of 10.
Being bilingual has also been proven to be able to stimulate mental development throughout all ages!
Understanding the Cognitive Abilities of Children
As children’s brains are more receptive to new experiences such as words and sounds, they are naturally better at mimicking them!
This effect creates the appearance that children can learn new words and sentences without putting in much effort compared to adults, who are more capable of acquiring intellectual learning that is much more complex.
It has been shown that bilingual children can process and distinguish the two languages before they can pronounce their first word! This is due to the experience of listening to one particular language that makes it easier to find the distinctions between the second language.
On the flip side, it can be a big challenge for older people to learn how to speak a new language and not carry over a particular accent.
We all know it’s a lot easier to learn a language if you are not afraid of making mistakes and sounding silly. The acquisition of language is used in the same parts of the brain that control various unconscious actions.
Benefits of Being Bilingual
Being multilingual helps in the ability to exercise your working memory since they can easily switch to another language. It has been known to keep your mind sharp.
Along with the lifelong ability to speak with others and developing cultural awareness, being bilingual can also provide an academic advantage. This can improve the number of job opportunities that your children can have when planning their career paths be it locally or overseas!
With their natural curiosity towards life, children are much more motivated to learn new languages. Young children are also better at acquiring the phonetic structure and correct grammar of a different language.
For families who are looking forward to their children being multilinguistic, do note that you will have to be patient and flexible. Remember that learning a language is a lifelong process. Talk to your family about how you would move this forward.
Some families have adopted the “one parent one language” approach so as to fully exposed the child to 2 languages. Others have engaged teachers or tutors to teach the language less spoken in the family.
Most importantly, it is important not to stress your children on speaking all the languages perfectly. Your attitude in this process will largely affect the results.
Being bilingual is essential in Singapore as we are living in a multi-cultural society.
I believe that learning new languages can also be a way to connect and communicate with people from different cultures and races. The languages that we speak also form our social identity. In Singapore, we even have our own unique language, “Singlish“.
We hope that this article has been insightful for you!