October 22, 2015

Bilingualism Boosts a Child’s IQ—and a Parent’s Pride!

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Oct

22

Bilingualism Boosts a Child’s IQ—and a Parent’s Pride!

Does it make you uncomfortable to listen to a language that you cannot speak?

Research shows that hearing two languages from birth neither creates language confusion nor slows down children’s fluency. Those findings support my personal goal to raise my son to be a bilingual speaker.

I thought I knew how hard it would be to teach my child Portuguese while raising him in the U.S. I was born and raised in Brazil, but my husband could not be more American, so my son is bombarded with English. But I still feel it should be easy to be bilingual in the U.S.; after all, this is a country whose population, according to the 2011 Census, speaks 381 languages. I cannot help but wonder, then, why it seems to attract attention when strangers overhear me speaking Portuguese with my son while we’re out in public. They don’t seem to understand that I am merely teaching my child to be bilingual!

Children's Language Development and the Impact on Relocation

My approach to my child’s language development also makes me aware of the importance of some language exceptions for children that our team encounters. Only 1% of Cartus’ Intercultural & Language Solutions youth language training corresponds to the delivery of a language other than that of the official host country. Half of these programs are delivered for English speakers, while the other half are divided amongst German, Hebrew, and Mandarin speakers. For instance, it is rare that a relocating German family moving to the U.S. will ask to have their kids take German lessons post-arrival, but it’s important that these children be able to continue developing their German skills in addition to improving their English skills. I’m a firm believer that we should continue to support these kinds of requests that will not only make the relocation successful for an expat family, but also for our clients, as these bilingual children may turn out to be future relocating assignees.

The benefits of bilingualism are numerous. However, aside from the studies that suggest learning a second language in childhood boosts IQ scores, I want to increase my child’s ability to understand others. It makes me proud to hear my son pronouncing the words that I grew up hearing. I am also proud that we are sharing a language that will allow him to communicate effectively in Brazil or Portugal.

I believe that taking this approach to language learning has begun to change how people perceive multilingual speakers. Our family and friends are starting to realize that my son and I don’t always have to speak English and in fact, we are truly enjoying our increasing ability to speak to each other in another language.

I hope that other immigrants, like me, in whatever country they are currently calling “home,” can become more comfortable when speaking their native language with their kids whenever they feel like it. It might help others realize that our world is, in fact, a global neighborhood!

Picture of Emmanuele Schweder

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Emmanuele Schweder

About Emmanuele

Emmanuele Schweder is Manager of Language Operations - Americas. She started with Cartus Intercultural & Language Solutions in 2009 as an Accounting Analyst. In addition to her native Portuguese, Emmanuele speaks fluent English and Spanish.

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Comments

Leonard Bentley
Great blog, Emmanuele! We have a similar situation with our daughters in the UK speaking Chinese with their mother. Our eldest has found it easier picking up words from other languages too!
I can see how this would help assignees and their families with the transition to the new host country. It's important not to lose touch with your roots.
Daniel Werder
Excellent blog! My (German) wife and I are raising our now two year old son to speak both German and English and are already reaping the benefits! It's one of the best gifts we can give him in life.
Jaime Suarez
Loved your blog, Emmanuele! My husband is Colombian and we are raising our 2 children in the US to be bilingual. Your thoughts are very encouraging, as there are days when it is not easy. Good thoughts, too, about how this applies to our expats. Thanks!
Robin Woelke
Hi Emmanuele,
I wandered into the Cartus Blog and found an article written by you, my former language network specialist. Well done. It's nice to see the face of someone I've only spoken to on the phone.
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