Last Friday I had the chance to listen in to a Google Plus Hangout on bilingualism and bilingual learning, and I’m very happy I did. In it, 5 wise and talented ladies shared their knowledge on how to raise bilingual children. I decided to write a post highlighting the most important points made in the Hangout.
Angelique Felix of The Magic of Play
Angelique is a big proponent of bringing fun into the learning process, and this can be applied to raising bilingual children. She suggests singing songs, combining sounds with movements, and starting from a very early age to facilitate language acquisition. After all, music is the base of learning a language- it’s about listening and making sounds yourself. Angelique also encourages us to make a language alive, use toys, and things you have in your house. The important thing is to make it easy to do and to remember.
Stephanie of InCulture Parent Magazine
Stephanie’s talk focuses more on theory and research on bilingualism. She mentions two types of benefits of bilingualism: the social benefits (greater understanding towards the world, greater opportunities), and cognitive benefits. Stephanie mainly focuses on the latter. Among the many benefits of speaking more than one language, we can mention increased mental flexibility (because bilinguals have to attribute two different words to one object), better concentration, switching from activity to activity is easier. Bilinguals are also said to have better scores in standardised tests, be better in maths, logical thinking, and to possess better problem solving skills. The exciting thing is that these benefits last a lifetime because bilingualism rewires the brain, even helping to prevent Alzheimer’s disease. And of course, speaking two or more languages makes you more apt to easily learn yet another one.
Annabelle of The Piri Piri Lexicon
In her part, Annabelle presents the latest research on bilingualism. It turns out that bilingual children develop in the same way as monolinguals. They produce their first words at the same time as monolinguals, the vocabulary is the same (when you take all the languages into account!), there are no delays. The more exposure the children get, the more words they know and can produce in these languages. Anabelle mentions the importance of parental involvement in their children multilingual upbringing. As an example, she mentions a game played in her family, which she calls “Papa says”, which helps the child to address the right person in the correct language. The game also increases their lexicon, and it’s easy!
Amanda of Miss Panda Chinese
Amanda’s part provides useful tips on how to make language learning fun and playful. Playing games is a great way to teach a language. A good language environment should appeal to many senses - taste, touch, smell, sight and hearing- because it encourages learning. Amanda also often does theme-related activities, for which she uses different toys and colourful objects. It’s great fun for young and older children. Just like Angelique, Amanda mentions the importance of music- children learn words through songs and music. Amanda also presents easy ways to create fun and educational toys for children out of things we all usually have at home, like toilet paper rolls (without the paper of course) and cotton pads. Also, she believes that learning is everywhere. Children need to have a connection with their language and culture. Amanda also mentions the importance of parental involvement at school to help educate children.
Kim of The Educators’ Spin On It
Kim is American but has a Hindi husband and supports their children’s learning of Hindi. Together they came up with interesting ways to encourage the children to speak Hindi. They use books, translate and alternate between story nights- reading the same books in different languages, using language on different days. They even create their own simple, bilingual books! Kim mentions another very important aspect of encouraging children to embrace other cultures - researching in the local area for festivals, events, programmes- the children are exposed to many languages even if they’re not the parents’ language. She also encourages all the parents to tell their stories of raising multilingual and multicultural children, as there may be more parents like themselves who will appreciate this information!
All in all, the hangout was a very inspiring event to listen to. Short and concise, it brought together all the important information about multilingualism. The ladies hosting it shared their knowledge and experience of raising multilingual children. I found that they really cooperated well together, with a good mix of theory and practice. I already have met Annabelle and Stephanie through my blog and it was good to finally see them “live”. As for the Amanda, Kim and Angelique, I was also glad to meet them because I have found some very interesting new blogs to read and explore! So, my question: when is the next hangout planned?
If you're interested in watching the hangout for yourself, you can find it here: