Children who learn more than one language may receive the following benefits and advantages: 

  • Enhanced cognitive development 
  • Improved memory and concentration 
  • Better problem solving skills 
  • Better communication 
  • More career opportunities in this global market (they can speak to people with different languages and cultures) 

In other words, children will receive upfront and long-term benefits from learning more than one language. This encourages us to teach and make our children get used to communicating in languages other than English. 

Raising a multilingual child 

First, do babies and children get confused when they’re being exposed to more than one language? The short answer is no. It’s a myth and it seems we’re underestimating our children’s capabilities. 

Babies and young children can already tell the difference between languages. They already understand those differences and their brains already have that capability to deal with two or three languages. 

As a result, you can start speaking to your child in your heritage language. For example, if you came from Spain and you’re worried that your child might be confused if you start speaking Spanish, note that your child can readily handle that. This is actually good for your child’s cognitive and communication development. 

You can also apply the One Person – One Language approach. For instance, you can speak Spanish to your child while your partner talks to your child in Mandarin. Aside from the cognitive benefits, this approach can also help strengthen the bond between you or your partner and your child. 

In everyday conversations you can use your heritage language when talking with your child. With this constant exposure and practice, your child will be able to pick up words and phrases. After all, as children’s vocabulary grows, they will be able to form phrases and better express themselves, whether through English or other languages. 

Aside from everyday use in talking with your child, here are other ways to support your child’s bilingual or multilingual development: 

  • Reading and telling stories in your heritage language 
  • Singing songs and playing music in your heritage language and that of your partner’s 
  • Looking for child care centres with bilingual or multilingual programs (as well as those early learning centres that conduct multicultural activities) 
  • Attending cultural activities with your child to celebrate your heritage and identity 
  • Watching movies in your heritage language 

Aside from helping with your child’s cognitive development, those activities can also help expand your child’s awareness and appreciation of different cultures, backgrounds and practices. This can help your child better empathise and get along with others.