Two months ago, a Reddit user named THROWAWAYRAHALLOWENI sought advice from the community when his wife insisted that they teach their child her native language. However, the father believes that since they live in the United States, it's not necessary, and he doesn't want their child to learn a language he doesn't understand.
Many children in the United States aren't exposed to other languages, and they often grow up with English as their only medium of communication. However, there are benefits to raising a bilingual child that some parents may miss.
Man and woman sitting on a pavement in front of a forrest | Source: Unsplash
FATHER REFUSES TO TEACH KID HIS WIFE'S NATIVE LANGUAGE
Reddit user THROWAWAYRAHALLOWENI's wife is from Asia, and she grew up speaking Urdu. The Redditor's wife always planned on teaching their child her native language so that she could pass down her heritage, and she insisted that they also learn English so that they could grow up bilingual.
However, the Redditor had reservations about this. He explained in his post that he doesn't plan on encouraging their child to learn Urdu because he believes the kid can get by with just English. In his post, he wrote,
"She plans on speaking to him in Urdu and wants me to speak English so we can raise him bilingual. But a part of me is nervous and hesitant because My child would be speaking a language I can't understand or speak and I feel like it would create a rift between us so I'd rather we stick to just English. WIBTA?"
One Redditor was quick to step in and explain to the father why he was wrong. Reddit user BL3Moxxxi told the Original Poster (OP) that he should learn it instead of being afraid of his child speaking a language he doesn't understand. The Redditor pointed out that the OP's own insecurities have put him in this position, and he should do better.
Man holding a baby | Source: Unsplash
DO CHILDREN NEED TO BE BILINGUAL?
One of the biggest advantages that bilingual children have is empathy. Studies have shown that these children have tended to have better social understanding. Other studies have shown that bilingual children have some academic advantages over their peers. Learning another language can also help boost brain function.
There are two methods that parents can use when raising a bilingual child.
Children need to be exposed to more than one language early on in their development to give them the best chance of mastering it. This also gives the child a leg up if they decide to learn another language in the future.
woman holding baby | Source: Unsplash
HOW TO RAISE A BILINGUAL BABY
There are two methods that parents can use when raising a bilingual child. The first is reffered to as OPOL or one parent's one language, and the other one is heritage language learning. These two methods help parents teach their children new languages.
The one parent one language technique is the one most commonly used by parents. In this model, if a couple speaks different languages, they each communicate with their baby using their native language. Using the Reddit story as an example, the wife would speak Urdu with their baby, and the father would speak English.
However, it's worth noting that not everyone agrees with this technique. In her study about linguistics, Professor Barbara Zurer Pearson says,
"Recent studies suggest that ‘one parent, one language’ is not the best strategy.”
Man hugging pregnant woman and child | Source: Unsplash
Another popular method is the heritage language technique. This basically means that you teach your kids to hear, speak, and use your heritage language through repetition. If everyone in the household speaks the language, it'll be easier for them to pick it up.
Parents can use games, stories, and even songs to help their children pick up another language. By making the learning environment fun and interactive, kids will learn the language faster. Karen Banes from Rose and Rex talks about the importance of parents using play to help their children develop.
"Whether we’re making mud pies, flying a kite or playing a computer game, play helps us to connect with our children, build and develop our relationship with them, and present ourselves as someone they can feel relaxed and secure with."
They can also enroll them in schools that have bilingual/multilingual programs so that their kids can be exposed to their native language outside the home.
A few years ago, Reddit user technomad posed a question to the community asking for advice on his two-and-a-half-year-old baby. The Redditor planned to teach them three languages: Arabic, English, and Mandarin. The idea was that the sooner they could teach her these languages, the easier it would be for her to pick them up.
However, the Redditor had some reservations. He wasn't sure if this idea would have benefited their baby in any way, and he was concerned that by doing this, they risk delaying the baby's speech development. Shortly after, a user named DockingBay_94 replied with a comprehensive and helpful answer. The Redditor said,
"There is no question that acquiring language as a child (the younger the better) is the way to go. Once you pass a certain age you can no longer acquire a language through the brain's natural mechanisms, and language must be taught, like reading or math."
Man holding two children | Source: Unsplash
DockingBay_94 added that there might be a slight delay in development, but it would only be for a short time. The user assured the OP that the benefits of teaching his baby multiple languages far outweighed any risk and that it, in the long run, it would give them a competitive advantage.
The consensus among professionals is that children with diverse heritage and are bilingual have a competitive advantage. For this reason, the Redditor in the first story may need to rethink his stance. What's your opinion on this topic? Please leave a comment and let us know.
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