Why Raise Bilingual Children?
It Can’t Hurt
I never really questioned whether or not Vanessa would grow up bilingual. As far as I knew, we would talk to her in our first language, Spanish, from the moment she was born. English, I figured, she would pick up from her surroundings—we live in Colorado—and eventually in preschool. In fact, the more I think about it, the more convinced I am that I want Vanessa to be multilingual. It can’t hurt. It hasn’t hurt me. On the contrary, being a bilingual journalist has opened twice as many doors as being a monolingual one would ever have!
Maybe it has to do with my own fascination with languages. I speak three and for a while now, I’ve been toying with the idea of learning a fourth one. Most of the members in my family are bilingual and several of them speak a third language—maybe not fluently, but well enough to make themselves understood if need be. In fact, an aunt of mine recently started taking Italian lessons and she is in her late sixties!
Why Do It?
According to the Multilingual Children’s Association, there are more pros than cons to raising your kids bilingual. Check some of them out:
- It is easier to learn another language from birth than it is during any other time in life—baby simply has two first languages.
- Multilingualism has been proven to help your child develop superior reading and writing skills.
- Multilingual children also tend to have over all better analytical, social, and academic skills than their monolingual peers.
- Knowing more than one language helps your child feel at ease in different environments. It creates a natural flexibility and adaptability, and it increases her self-esteem and self-confidence.
- Career prospects are multiplied many times over for people who know more than one language.
All these reasons are great, but the truly most important reason for me is that it wouldn’t feel like Vanessa is my daughter if she didn’t speak the language of our ancestors; if she couldn’t sing Arroz con leche …; if she couldn’t call her Dad, “Papito”; if her cousins in Perú, México or Puerto Rico asked her to play “a las escondidas,” and she had to ask me for a translation … speaking Spanish to her is about cultural identity, it’s about familia. It’s a matter very close to our heart.
In the end—no matter your reasons for doing it—it’s a win-win situation!