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If you’re part of a family where more than one language is spoken in the home: we salute you. You’re in the best position to raise multi-tasking, problem-solving, culturally aware children.

Whereas researchers once believed that exposure to more than one language confused little minds, there has been a revolution in thinking in recent years.

Analysts of the growing, learning brain firmly support the early learning of linguistic skills. 

For practical tips on introducing languages in the home, read our sister June article here.

When Does Language Learning Start?

Did you know that babies’ language skills actually begin before birth? 

It’s well documented that an unborn baby can detect its mother’s voice from inside the womb, but—cleverer than that—by the time it’s born it will actually be able to distinguish between its mother’s tongue and another language.

Learning a language actually reshapes the mind!

By the time they’re 11 months old, babies who are raised in bilingual homes can process the sounds of two languages, according to pioneering research from University of Washington scientists published in Developmental Science journal.

These brain studies revealed that bilingual babies were learning at the same rate as their monolingual counterparts and could even end up with a larger vocabulary.

Letter tiles spelling Learn

The little minds of bilingual children are better at problem solving, remembering and multi-tasking

Brain Growth

Cognitive skills are the skills which the brain uses to think, learn, read, remember and reason. These play an important role in processing new information.

It means if one of these skills is weak, the ability to grasp, retain or use information is impacted. Most learning struggles are caused by weakened cognitive skills.

However the brains of bilingual children actually evolve differently and they can display enhanced cognitive skills when it comes to things such as memory retention, multi-tasking and problem solving.

Researchers at the Georgetown University Medical Centre in the U.S found an increased volume of grey matter in a bilingual brain to explain this cognitive advantage. 

So it seems learning a language actually reshapes the mind!

Word Awareness

If you’re introducing two languages to your young child, it’s a common fear that they’re going to face speech delay or confusion.

Although bilinguals do mix their languages, it’s been shown that this word ‘switching’ is part of normal language development and that they’re actually mirroring the speech of adults around them—who will often flit between languages in the same sentence.

If your child can’t quickly think of the word in one language, their brain is trained in a way that it will search for the word in the other language. 

This increased word awareness is an indication of better word recognition, learning and recall. 

Toddler reading a book outside

Natural linguists perform better in reading tests at school

Academic Performance

Cognitive skills are crucial for a child’s academic success, so when they reach school age the difference in performance of bilinguals is marked.

Natural linguists have been shown to perform better in some subjects when faced with standardized testing, particularly reading, writing, English and math.

Cultural Openness

When your child is learning two languages from birth, they’re instinctively taking on board two cultural systems; two countries; two families.

They’re developing an openness not just to new words and phrases but to new ideas, new understandings and new connections that will hopefully impact a lifetime of cultural activity and richness. 

You’ll find that not only can they communicate better with family but with those around them.

Whether or not you have a multilingual home, you can help your youngster to learn more than one language.

Kids are exposed to second languages at a very early age through playgroups and schools in Asia, so it becomes a case of ensuring education continues outside the classroom.

If you want to begin language training, there’s no time better to start than the present.