Being multilingual gives children a wider perspective
I agree with the fact that multilingual children are better at communicating than monolingual children. They gain a lot of other benefits too as learning more than one language widens their vision. It is not only about learning a new language, because with that comes learning the cultural values and traditions that are connected with that specific language. In addition, every language has its own way of expressing itself, so the child gets a better comprehension of each and every word and the meaning of it.
When it comes to whether or not multilingual children develop a better working memory or not, I am undecided because intelligence is not something that is developed once and lasts forever. It is a matter of continuously exercising your brain, and the more you do that, the better will you perform.
In my line of work, I help couples with adoption and there was one couple who adopted a four year-old girl from Ethiopia and initially she would only speak her own language. However, her new parents spoke English and French, and within 8 months, the girl had picked up both languages. That is a perfect example that shows how easily children pick up languages without the help of books or grammar.
One thing that I have noticed from experience is that when a child needs to learn more than one language over a certain period, the child experiences confusion, which results in speaking much later than monolinguals. The confusion is related to the fact that the child struggles to make out which words belong to what language. However, being multilingual should definitely be seen as a boost and not a handicap simply because your child might not start talking until a later age. Speaking earlier in life is not always better, but yes, monolinguals tend to be faster because the task that they are exposed to is much easier. However, whether or not this is good in the long run is debatable. Monolinguals might learn to speak earlier, but then they just know one language whereas multilinguals speak later, but know several languages. In turn, this opens up a lot of doors and opportunities for them.
From Dr Andrea Tosatto
Clinical psychologist based in Dubai
Language is top priority
In our globalised society, communication skills are a tremendous asset. Being bilingual resolves the brains internal language conflict. Just like cardiovascular exercise strengthens the physical body, bilingual skills help the brain exercise by processing two or more languages. Various studies have proved that children who are exposed to several languages are more creative than those who only are exposed to their mother tongue.
Children with bilingual or multilingual skills have an advantage over monolingual children because they know more than one set of grammar rules, vocabulary and expression, which widens their perspective in terms of grasping and understanding the world around them. Researchers suggest that whenever bilinguals speak, their brain chooses the right word while blocking the same term from another language. As a result, knowing more than one language improves the brains executive function.
While monolingual children might learn to speak faster and are fluent in the one language that they know, multilinguals are better of in the long-term, and that too in a fast-paced society like today. Working within human resources, I know how competitive the job market is, and any additional asset will put you one step ahead. Languages are among the top priorities and multilinguals tend to surpass monolinguals when it comes to the work force and getting a job. With that in mind, every parent should strive to encourage their children to learn more than one language as it will definitely benefit them in the future. It is hard on the child in the initial stages as it can cause a lot of confusion, however, considering the benefits, it is definitely worth it.
From Ms Vidya Rajeev
Human resource executive based in Dubai
Multilingualism is an asset in the work force
As a practicing paediatrician, I am certainly in favour of children being taught to be multilingual in order to have a successful educational career, subsequent employment opportunities and eventually become a socially and culturally adaptable adult. While it might hold some ground that monolingual children are more articulate and have a wider vocabulary network with their core language, it is the general opinion of educationists that students who cultivate in being bi or trilingual are more innovative.
It is believed that the ability to cross refer an educational piece to a second language often helps in lateral thinking and diversity in expression. It has also been observed that an employer in the current job market might often give preference to candidates who are proficient in a second or third language since communication skills with clients of different nationalities is considered an asset. I strongly believe that while a child should be fluent (at least the spoken language) with his or her mother tongue for a wider bonding with family members and relatives, the skill of mastering a second or a third language (other than the prime language of instruction), is a wise educational investment.
Having said this, both parents and teachers must ensure that the child develops the expertise to converse, interpret, critically analyse and attempt to master the language and not be content in just scoring the minimum pass marks as observed in some educational institutions. In today’s world, I feel that a student who is multilingual will definitely be street-smart and have an edge over the one who just commands a single language.
From Dr Utpal Kumar Kataky
Pediatrician based in Dubai
— Compiled by Donia Yassinson/Community Web Editor