I am a US citizen and love living in this country, but I was raised in France and my family only speaks French. It has always been evident to me that I would raise my kids bilingual. It’s part of who I am, and I want to pass this on to my children.
Now, I’m not saying that everyone should raise their kids to be bilingual and spend tens of thousands of dollars on tutors, private schools, and travels. It’s easy for me; all I have to do is speak and my kids soak it up. They listen and repeat, the same way they learn English.
Making sure that my kids speak French is reason #174 why I decided to stay home with them, at least while they are little. Who is going to talk to them in French if they are in daycare or with an American nanny and I’m off to work?
So if you are lucky enough to speak a different language than the one your spouse speaks or the main language in the country you live, I’m going to give you my six reasons why you should raise your kids bilingual:
It Benefits Their Brain Development, Now and Later in Life
There are multiple studies that show the benefits on brain development when kids learn another language at an early age. Here are two for example:
- Bilingual Brains – Smarter & Faster, Judy Willis M.D., M.Ed
- The Bilingual Brain, Society of Neuroscience
Once Children Master Two Languages, It Will Be Easy-Peasy to Learn a Third or Fourth or More
Their brain will just be wired differently.
They’ll Have a Secret Language With Their Siblings
I believe this is going to help my daughters bond. They won’t be able to do so in front of me, but I can imagine a scene in my head – my girls 14 and 17 years old and bilingual, talking to their father who understands some French but not if it’s spoken at a normal conversational speed. They can say something to him and agree on something completely different right in front of him in French.
My husband will come to me a few hours later with “The girls said something along the lines of ‘On attend que papa s’en aille et après on prend des tickets pour aller voir un autre film,’ what does that mean?” It makes me giggle to think about it.
Through Language, They Learn About a Different Culture
Each culture thinks differently and it transpires in our words. It gives my kids a better understanding of the world, or at least the French culture while living in the USA.
They’ll Thank You for It… Later in Life!
Trust me, they will! I fight daily with my four-year-old for her to speak French to me. I don’t answer questions if she asks in English, and if she tells me a story that happened at school in English, I make her repeat it in French.
The sentence I say to my daughter the most is “En français avec Maman” (In French with Mommy). It may seem harsh, but I need to challenge her. She is bilingual and understands everything I say, but English has become her first language, and it’s easier for her to revert to it. I have friends who tell me their kids can understand their native language but can’t speak it, that it becomes a problem when family visits. I don’t want that to happen.
I have also talked to many grown children of immigrants. They come to me because they hear me and my daughters speak French in this country. Every single time, they tell me they wish their parents taught them the language, kept speaking to them, and made them answer in their native language. Some can remember when they stopped speaking to their parents in their mother tongue. They say they were young and wanted to fit in but did not realize how beneficial it would be to have a second language. They wish they could be bilingual.
Fight your kids on this; they WILL thank you for it.
It Will Give My Daughters Greater Business Opportunities
We live in a global world. People travel, network, move. I believe it will help them land their ideal job or follow their dreams. My girls can live in the USA or Europe – okay, that comes with the dual citizenship. But they can actually move to several countries and already speak the language. I’m certain they’ll pick up Spanish very easily and that opens even more doors. How about German, Japanese, Arabic…? The opportunities are limitless!
And they are all set if they decide to move to Canada. 🙂