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Two Languages, Twice the Opportunities: Why Speaking More Than Language Gives Children a Superpower

This is a sponsored post, in partnership with First 5 LA and Quality Start Los Angeles.

As a parent, you may be wondering about the advantages of raising a dual language learner for children. Introducing children to more than one language at an early age can significantly enhance their cognitive, social, and emotional development.

The Quality Start Los Angeles Dual Language Learner Initiative offers free workshops for families with dual language learners, with the aim of helping parents support their child’s early learning journey. Visit their website to learn how they are supporting dual language at home.

family reading to a baby
Reading to your baby is not just fun, it can help foster language acquisition, no matter what language you use!

Importance of Family and Home Language

A child’s family, their home language, and their culture are unique strengths that they bring to early learning program. We can build a better tomorrow when families, educators and the general public value, share, and respect these strengths in our learning communities, and beyond.

Research indicates that children who learn two or more languages have special benefits such as improved problem-solving skills, increased empathy, and better communication abilities. When children are exposed to different languages, they develop a more inclusive understanding of the world, embracing diversity and establishing connections with people from various backgrounds.

The Advantages of Starting Early

Children who learn more than one language possess a superpower which develops at the very beginning of life. The infant and toddler years are the most important and effective time to support language development.

Encouraging your child to become a dual language learner involves creating a nurturing and supportive home environment that helps your child to value your home language, culture, and identity. By fostering their linguistic and cultural diversity, you enable children to become successful bilingual individuals with a strong foundation in the languages they are learning.

African american family of 4 reading a book together
Reading can be a wonderful way to spend family time together.

Benefits of Dual Language Learning

The research is clear. We now know that children who speak more than one language will experience heightened cognitive and social-emotional development.

When children learn multiple languages, they develop a better understanding of grammar, syntax, and other linguistic concepts. This, in turn, opens up new avenues for communication, improving your child’s social and cognitive abilities.

Another key benefit lies in the development of literacy skills. Becoming bilingual from a young age allows children to access a wider range of literature. As they read and engage with texts in different languages, their reading comprehension, writing abilities, and critical thinking skills grow stronger and richer.

Dual language learners can learn math concepts and skills without being fluent in their second language.

Children reading the book on picnic in summer park
Children can help each other learn to read and share their home language together.

Language Acquisition

Language acquisition is also an important aspect of dual language learning. Research shows that children who learn more than one language typically speak their first words by age one and can use two-word phrases by age two. By exposing your child to multiple languages early on, you’re providing them with the tools to gain proficiency in both more effectively.

Moreover, dual language learning has been linked to academic success. By nurturing bilingualism, you’re paving the way for your child to excel academically and navigate complex situations more efficiently in the future.

quality start los angeles dual language learner initiative graphic

Dual Language Learning Environments

At Home

Creating a supportive dual language learning environment at home begins with embracing your child’s home language. Encourage your family members to speak the home language regularly, helping your child feel comfortable with both English and the other language. Expose your child to a variety of daily experiences in both languages, such as reading books, singing songs, and engaging in conversations.

In School and in the Community

In the school setting, teachers can create bilingual classrooms that incorporate both English and the home language(s), celebrating the diverse linguistic and cultural backgrounds of students. Engaging the community by providing resources and opportunities to learn about and practice these languages will also support dual language learners.

Supportive Strategies and Tips for Parents

To support your child’s language development, introduce new words and phrases now and then in both languages during daily routines and storytime. Ensure that your child has access to books, stories, and other language resources in both English and their home language. Encourage and practice regular reading, while also exposing them to music, gestures, and real-life situations where they can practice their language skills.

Chinese mother and daughter playing clapping game
Clapping games and songs can be a great way to help children learn a language, as well as pass on cultural traditions.

Language Development in Young Dual Language Learners

Young children learning more than one language develop their language skills through experiences, interactions, and exposure to various communication methods. Be patient with your child’s language acquisition; bilingual children might take slightly longer to reach certain milestones, but their overall development remains on track. Children learning two languages may go through a quiet period while their brains are processing the skills required to learn and speak multiple languages. This is normal and does not necessarily mean they are falling behind in their language development.

Historically, little attention and support has been provided to the unique developmental needs of infant and toddler dual language learners. But that is thankfully, changing.

Challenges and Supports for Dual Language Learning

The negative effects of COVID-19 on young children are accentuated for dual language learners who historically lacked educational and family support, often placing them further behind their peers. Supportive strategies include creating opportunities for children to practice both languages, incorporating their cultural traditions, and providing language-rich environments.

The Diversity of Dual Language Learners

Dual language learners come from various backgrounds and bring unique cultural perspectives, enriching our communities. Embracing this diversity provides important educational and social benefits, creating an inclusive and supportive society for all.

The Future of Dual-Language Learning

The future of dual-language learning is promising, offering benefits for both children and communities. Dual language learning promotes communication and cultural understanding, while also providing cognitive advantages that can help children thrive in our increasingly diverse and globalized world. With this support, children can succeed not only academically, but also socially and culturally, building bridges and breaking down barriers between people of different backgrounds. Let’s embrace the power of dual-language learning and create a brighter, more connected future for all!

Visit the Quality Start Los Angeles website to learn how they can help you support dual language learning at home.

This is a sponsored post, in partnership with First 5 LA and Quality Start Los Angeles.

Sarah Auerswald is the co-Founder and Managing Editor of MomsLA.com.

 

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