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Bilingual Debate

Photo by Mary Claire Reece

Photo by Mary Claire Reece

Lauren Miller, Reporter

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In a world where global communication is important, America is lagging behind. Although America has a diverse population, only 20 percent of the people can speak a language other than English (puertoricoreport.com). Compared to other first world countries this is extremely low, which raises the debate about whether or not to raise a child bilingual.

Some parents feel that a second language will confuse children while others think it will make them smarter. As with anything, there are pros and cons.

There are several scientists that claim that it sets the child up to have “language handicaps” meaning it hinders the child’s complete understanding of each language. In 1966, scientist John Macnamara hypothesized that a child pays for his second language skills by losing some of his first language skills. Many studies have even found that bilingual children do more poorly on the verbal portions of an intelligence test as well as academic tasks than monolingual kids.

Recent studies have shown that teaching children more than one language from birth can help their cognitive and linguistic development. Switching between two languages daily helps the brain grasp vocabulary and grammar techniques of each language. In turn, this expands the brain’s intellectual ability in the classroom and in life.

Despite the efforts of researchers to conclusively explain the differences of learning in monolingual and bilingual children, no concrete conclusions can be drawn due to outside variables like environmental, educational and biological factors. Every child is different, and parents remain conflicted about what is best for their child.

No matter its effect on cognitive ability, being bilingual can provide an advantage in the job market and the business world. Some of the school’s own staff can attest to the benefits of raising a bilingual child. Spanish teacher Maggie Ledezma only spoke Spanish until she was in the seventh grade. Her father eventually taught her how to speak English. Now a mother, Ledezma has raised all of her children to be fluent in both English and Spanish.

“It opens that many more doors than the person next to you that only speaks one language,” Ledezma expressed. “It doesn’t matter if it’s Chinese, Japanese, American Sign Language, Spanish, or French. Whatever language it is, you have twice as many opportunities as the person who only speaks one language. America is a melting pot. There are so many jobs that require you to be bilingual.”

Ledezma encourages every parent to raise their children bilingual. However, learning a second language is a challenge. In order to achieve this skill of being fluent in more than one language, they are going to need lots of practice. Many families choose one parent to speak to the child in one language while the other language is spoken by the other parent, or if there is no time for a formal lesson, language apps are always available. Whatever the method may be, raising a bilingual child or learning a second language for yourself is definitely worthwhile.

Sources:

https://www.puertoricoreport.com/bilingual-america/#.WwcXnmgvzrc

 

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