Q. What is bilingualism?
Bilingualism is the ability to speak two languages. A bilingual person may be stronger in one language than the other and prefer to use one of them in certain situations, but feels confident speaking in both languages.
Q. Why should I encourage my children to become bilingual?
Learning another language:
- Enhances creative and flexible thinking. Children can ‘think outside the square’ because they are accustomed to using different ways to think about the same idea or problem.
- Promotes awareness of the structure of language. This helps general language development including listening, speaking, and literacy in English. It also makes children more effective learners of subsequent languages.
- Contributes to social harmony and cohesiveness through better communication and understanding.
- Further develops the existing linguistic and cultural resources in our community.
- Prepares children to live and work in an increasingly globalised world, which is multilingual. English alone is no longer enough.
- Contributes to Australia’s strategic, economic and international development.
- Enhances employment and career prospects for the individual.
Q. How can children become bilingual?
Families where one or both parents speak another language may raise their children bilingually by regularly speaking the other language at home and in the community.
Children who speak only English at home may learn another language through
- play and social interaction with peers and carers who speak the language at childcare, preschool or a playgroup
- a more structured educational program at an after-hours community language school or K-12 school.
Q. What is the best age to start learning another language?
While it is possible to learn a language at any age, young children are natural language learners. They can effortlessly acquire native-like pronunciation, which is rare after the age of puberty.
* More information about bilingualism and bilingual education
Practical information for families raising children in more than one language
Languages Action Alliance FaceBook page
How maintenance of first language helps in English language and cognitive development
www.acsso.org.au/publications/#lflt (Click on ‘leaflets’)
(NOTE: the above leaflets are available in more languages than indicated online).
For teachers and other professionals working with multilingual families
For children’s books and other resources in various languages
Source: ACT Bilingual Education Alliance