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Why Multilingualism is Beneficial for Children

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With Malaysia's multi-ethnic population and great social diversity, more than half of the population knows more than one language. In addition to the official language, Bahasa Malaysia or Malay; Malaysians are fluent in several other languages including English and their language of mother tongue. Our children are aware of the cultural differences when growing up in a diverse culture, say example, their family's language. We would change the language we spoke depending on the social setting and context. For example, we spoke Bahasa Malaysia at school but spoke Cantonese at our grandparents' house. It has been long ingrained in our culture for us to adapt and to switch between languages fluently, moreover so for children who have just started to pick up a new language.


A number of studies have shown the benefits of learning or speaking a language other than own mother tongue. Here are some of them: 1) Strengthen the brain Since each language has its own set of rules and structures, children may get confused by the usage of two languages, but in the end, the positives outweigh the negatives. Our brain is constantly being challenged when we learn a new language. As a result, this "challenge" enables our brains to switch quickly, allowing them to exercise and improve our memory.

2) Keep the mind sharp

Multilingual individuals are said to be more attentive to their surroundings, according to a study conducted by Albert Costa of the University of Pompeu Fabra in Spain. They tend to be far more perceptive as they grow up. For instance, bilinguals who switch between languages depending on social settings will develop awareness around them and eventually becoming a trait of unconscious competence.

"One language sets you in a corridor for life. Two languages open every door along the way." - Frank Smith (Reknowned Pyscholinguist)

3) Improve communication skills in children

According to Kathryn Kinzler, an associate professor of psychology and human development at Cornell University, children who are raised in an environment that encourages them to learn multiple languages end up being better at understanding other people's viewpoints in the long run. It's easier to communicate when you can understand from someone else's perspective and reciprocate better.


4) Reduce the risk of cognitive impairment

Research has found that monolingual individuals can show the earliest signs of dementia as early as 71.4 years old, whereas multilingual individuals at 75.5 years old. Prof. Suvarna Alladi commented that "speaking more than one language contributes to better development of the brain region that enables decision-making and attention," which may serve as protection against the onset of dementia.


5) Enhance multitasking skill

According to Pennsylvania State University research, multilingual individuals, especially children, are able to multitask well. This is due to the fact that learning a new language requires one to multitask; to be able to switch between complex structures of speech and writing of any language when it is needed. Having these skills helps bilinguals work on multiple projects at once and prioritize tasks. In a nutshell, it is important for children to have a strong foundation in their English from an early age especially when they are bilingual or multilingual. If you would like to help your child to remove the language barrier and becoming a good communicator, speak to our program consultant today at bit.ly/tsainfo and get a free trial class!

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