Wondering if it is really necessary for your child to learn a second language? Here are some reasons for the importance of ensuring your child grows up to be effectively bilingual.
WORDS NURULHUDA SUHAIMI
While it is important to ensure that our children are fluent in English since it is widely spoken internationally, we should not forget the importance of learning a second language as well. Let’s take a look at some of the benefits of learning a second language for your little ones.
Improved Inhibitory Control
Bilingual people tend to demonstrate advanced inhibitory control than those who are monolingual. This refers to the ability to resist one’s natural behaviour or reaction in response to a particular stimulus and choosing to respond in a manner that is more appropriate or well thought out.
For instance, let’s say you did not allow your child to watch television because he failed to finish his homework, even though you already told him to do so beforehand. Your child’s natural response might be to get angry, but his inhibitory control will enable him to control his anger because he understands why he is not being allowed to watch television.
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Inhibitory control also refers to the ability to pay attention to relevant information while ignoring other irrelevant aspects surrounding that information. An example is your child being able to focus on reading a book without getting distracted by the noise outside.
Inhibitory control is extremely important to a child’s development.
A child with strong inhibitory control is able to focus better in class,
adjust his behaviour appropriately to the situation he is in,
or study without getting distracted.
As the child grows older, his inhibitory control may reduce his likelihood of falling into addictive behaviours or promotes emotional intelligence such as enabling him to manage his emotions appropriately to the situation he is in.
Increased Literacy Skills
People who speak two languages are typically able to switch seamlessly between two languages in a single conversation – also known as code-switching. Most of us in Singapore are probably able to speak in a jumble of at least two languages like it’s nothing at all.
Or you may switch between languages when speaking to different people. For example, you may speak English with your child and then switch to your mother tongue with your parents.
This ability to switch between different languages requires a higher concentration of our surroundings as you have to keep track of the changes in the languages while understanding the conversation at the same time. Having to efficiently manage between different languages has been found to enhance a child’s awareness of language patterns.
In a school setting, this awareness – known as multilinguistic awareness –
is essential as it can aid your child’s literacy skills. He will be more flexible to the understanding
that objects can have more than one label, or that the same action can be described in different ways.
Additionally, your child will easily grasp the concept that language goes beyond the literal meaning of words. He knows that there are such things as metaphors and puns, that he can change the way a sentence is written, or that names of objects are separate from the objects themselves (e.g. an apple is still an apple even if someone refers to it as an orange).
Improved cognitive functions like flexible thinking may even benefit a child’s social behaviour. Flexible thinking can make a child more open-minded, recognising that there is more than one way to look at the world. Being exposed to and learning a second language from early on allows a child to be immersed in a different culture, which will enable him to be more understanding of different points of view.
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