Considering the bilingual education policy in Singapore in which our kids pass both their mother tongue and English at PSLE, many people believe that speaking the same two languages at home might help the cause.
Let us look at what studies have to tell in this matter and whether people’s experiences prove the point.
Bilingual homes have a positive effect on kids’ cognitive abilities
While the impact of multilingualism on children’s linguistic skills is evident, recent studies prove that the story does not actually end there.
In her article in The Independent newspaper, Elisa Criado summarizes the Singaporean study conducted among 114 six-month-old bilingual infants. The purpose of the study is to check whether having more than one native tongue affects children’s cognitive skills.
The answer is yes, it does.
The method researchers used to test kids’ cognitive abilities is called visual habituation. Every child was repeatedly shown the same picture of an animal toy. When they lost interest in it, they were given another picture, which was yet unfamiliar to them.
Kids from bilingual homes got bored quicker, which meant they processed information quicker too. They also were more interested in the novel image compared to their monolingual peers.
As these factors are proved to have links with higher IQ levels in future, the study establishes a connection between a bilingual home environment and better cognitive skills.
Bilingual environment is not a panacea
While being brought up in a home where two or more languages are spoken is good for your child, it might still not be enough.
As an example, Jane Ng shares the story of her son, Jason.
When one of Jason’s teachers told Jane that her son might benefit from Chinese Tuition, she decided not to send him for extra classes, thinking that bilingual environment at home could improve the situation.
However, the reality proved the opposite. Even though Jason could easily speak Mandarin at home and his Chinese scores were fine, he had a lot of problems when it came to compositions.
As Jane said, Jason used only simple phrases and basic terms in his writing. He also built sentences as if he was writing them in English, which led to numerous grammar mistakes.
Moreover, while Jason was quite good at English and his English compositions were much better than the Chinese ones, those weren’t deprived of spelling and grammar mistakes either.
All of this finally convinced Jane to consider getting a Chinese tutor and she found someone who could help specifically with compositions.
Summing up, speaking multiple languages at home is a huge advantage for a child. Bilingualism has lots of positive effects, including emotional and social benefits, practical and even cultural advantages.
And, of course, it might help your child to study better by improving their problem-solving skills, boosting their creativity, making them more focused and concentrated. It can also assist in learning languages, to some extent, at least.
However, it can’t protect your child from having a weak subject or struggling with a particular kind of task like it happened to Jane Ng’s son.
The solution is to have a multifaceted approach and not get stuck on one thing. Try everything and fix on whatever it is that works for your kid!