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Raising Bilingual Kids

Being bilingual is not just about speaking two languages – even if that is already impressing – but about much more.

It entails numerous benefits on every level.

Benefits of being bilingual (or even multilingual)

Better executive functions

Antonella Sorace at the University of Edinburgh, in Scotland says “People who speak two languages often outperform monolinguals on general measures of executive function. [Bilinguals] can pay focused attention without being distracted and also improve in the ability to switch from one task to another.”

Empathy

Young children being raised bilingual have to pay attention to social cues to figure out which language to use with which person and in what setting. As a result, says Sorace, bilingual children as young as age 3 have demonstrated a head start on tests of perspective-taking and theory of mind — both of which are fundamental social and emotional skills.

Diversity and integration.

Learning and being exposed to more than one language helps kids to be aware of different cultures and more respectful and accepting of differences.

Better life opportunities

In our ever interconnected world, finding a job when speaking more than one language has almost become the norm. So it is essential nowadays to be bilingual to get the best options in life and to have choices.

Protection against cognitive decline and dementia.

Researchers have found that actively using two languages seems to have a protective effect against age-related dementia.

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Some tips to get started

Starting early on

Kids, especially under 6, are at the age where they absorb all information, their brain is flexible and open. It is also the time where they enjoy exploring and looking for information, asking a hundred times “what’s this?”. Subhan Allah, we were designed perfectly by our creator. So it is the time when it is easier for them to retain and learn a new language. The older they get, the more difficult it is to learn a second or third language. Also, starting at a young age will allow better pronunciation and understanding of the language and also make it easier as it won’t require much of an effort for them.

So start the sooner the better!

*Those who claim speech delays and mixing up languages have it wrong, studies show.

Learning Arabic

It is the language of the Quran and of Sunnah references. The original text being in Arabic, all so-called “translations” are actually interpretations as translators will choose a word over another to translate the meaning of the Arabic word. Knowing Arabic gives you a deeper and more accurate sense of the beautiful messages in the Quran. Giving your children the ability to understand the words of Allah in their original form is one of the most amazing gift.

Being able to recite Quran while understanding it makes ibadah even more powerful.

Repetition is the key

One key element of learning a language is repetition and at an early age that is already their daily routine and even their favourite part. They never get bored of repeating the same again and again, you know the wonderful “Mum, Mum, Mum, Mum, Mum…”

But what if I don’t speak any other language?

You don’t need to be yourself bilingual to raise bilingual kids. It does help indeed if you already speak two languages or if each parent has a different mother tongue, a situation you should totally take advantage of, but even if not, you can still do it. The internet has wonderful resources and you can even sometimes find language school/programs in your area. Don’t be discouraged and remind yourself of all the benefits for your children.

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