Issue #9— October 15, 2018
Bilingualism as a Life Experience
Did you know that persistent bilingual experience shapes brain functions and structures?
Our world is becoming increasingly multilingual and we face it every day. But who would have imagined that the words we hear and the sentences we speak might be leaving such a deep imprint? Not only does speaking multiple languages help us to communicate, but bilingualism (or multilingualism) may confer distinct advantages to the developing brain and especially helping the aging brain. According several studies, bilingual adults are more resistant than others to the onset of dementia and other symptoms of Alzheimer’s disease: the onset was delayed by 4 years in bilinguals compared to monolinguals. Bilingualism seems to have a protective effect on cognitive decline.
All these benefits should encourage especially us as parents to support our children’s bilingualism. Here are some ways to do it:
- Do what feels comfortable for you and your family. Don’t speak a language with your child if you are not comfortable or fluent in that language, and try to speak always the same language.
- Don’t worry if your child mixes his two languages. This is a normal part of becoming bilingual. Provide your child with many opportunities to hear, speak, play, and interact in your home language.
- Bilingualism itself does not cause language delay. If you think your child has a language delay, consult a speech language pathologist for advice regarding the best ways to help your child learn more than one language.
In 1922 the philosopher Ludwig Wittgenstein wrote, “The limits of my language mean the limits of my world.” Let’s learn to speak a different language and see a bigger world.
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