Lori of In Pursuit of Martha Points is one of my favorite funny lady bloggers, and she's one of the best peeps to follow on twitter, @marthapoints.
Lori is also a licensed, certified speech-language pathologist, with over 15 years experience, who has created a resource site, Your Child Talking, dedicated to providing parents with information on children and language development.
How did Your Child Talking come to be? In Lori's words:
"I wanted to develop a place where parents could subscribe to blog posts with information about language, speech, linguistic development and communication. I wanted to create a place where people could contact me to ask questions. I wanted to develop a service where I could consult with parents about their own children using easy-to-use web services like YouTube and Skype.
And after thinking about it for a while…here it is..."
Earlier this week, I had the privilege of guest posting at Lori's Speech and Language site, Your Child Talking, with this post on being raised bilingually. Lori follows up my post there, today, with her take on the linguistic and cognitive benefits of raising a child with more than one language.
I am honored to have Lori here today to discuss the blessings of raising children knowing more than one language.
Beautifully Bilingual--- by Lori, of Your Child Talking
There are many things I want to accomplish in this life. I want to write a book. I want to climb Half Dome. But there’s one more, and I’ve tried and tried and I just can’t get it to work.
I want to speak a second language.
I tried French. I tried Spanish. I tried sign language. And while I’d like to blame my failure to learn Spanish on the distraction created by my incredibly handsome Spanish professor, my blame game breaks down with French. I had a good high school teacher, a good (if somewhat austere) college instructor, and yet I can still only stumble through in asking to buy a ticket somewhere or find a bathroom (or a library).
I know that part of my impairments comes from a resistance to making mistakes, and you just can’t get anywhere with a language if you wait to talk until you know you’re going to get it right.
As a result of this repeated failure, I have an amazing respect for people who are bi-lingual. And that respect climbs for the multi-lingual.
We are hard-wired to use language. But we are hard-wired to learn language when we’re little. Up to around the age of 10 or 12. Then it is at its easiest and most natural. That’s why people who learn their other languages when they’re young escape the accent challenge. The amazing plasticity of a young brain allows it to gobble up motor patterns with ease and their speech sounds as natural as if they spoke only the one language all the time.
Here’s an interesting fact about children who grow up bilingual: they often acquire language more slowly than monolingual children. To the point where in places where there are large immigrant populations and a language other than English is learned at home, that school speech therapists spend a lot of time filtering out children who are referred to them for language problems when they’re truly just trying to acquire more than one language at time. This is the simplest type of delay, not a disability or a disorder. And since we know that the fix for this problem is time, we give it to them. A speech therapist cannot fix what is not broken. But if you think about it, this makes complete sense. The child is learning two sound systems, two vocabularies and two sets of grammatical rules. So since they’re doing twice the work, it is really only fair that it takes them a bit longer.
But here’s the GREAT part: people who were bi-lingual as children often exhibit far greater cognitive flexibility later in life. And by cognitive flexibility I mean the ability to make leaps in problem solving. I mean a rich appreciation of humor. I mean access to a broad array of language subtlety. I mean ability to appreciate multiple sides of problems. They often have better focus and attention. And any person who can speak more than one language has a part of the world open to them that may be closed to others. And lastly, there seems to be a cascade effect where learning two language makes a person that much more able to learn a third. It’s almost as if the act of learning two languages as a child wires in the language-learning ability far more permanently than learning only one does. Isn’t all that fantastic? So if you’ve been thinking about raising your children with a second language, or about bilingual immersion programs that some magnet or charter schools are offering these days for your kids, I urge you to do those things. It may slow the language process down initially, but that’s a small price to pay, and a temporary one at that. And your kidlet gets back the investment in spades.
I invite you to visit Your Child Talking, read, browse, email me or leave Lori comments.
A resource like Your Child Talking is an amazing, valuable asset for parents who have speech language questions, concerns, or a healthy curiosity about their child and age appropriate language development.
Click here to learn more about one-on-one services for you and your child.