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There are many different definitions of bilingualism and much debate over the subject. For our purposes, we would define bilingualism as using two languages on a regular basis. There are many advantages in becoming bilingual. They can be summarised as follows:
In tests that measure creative thinking or divergent thinking (e.g. imagine you have a brick/tin can/cardboard box – how many ways could you use it?) bilinguals score higher i.e. they think of more uses than monolinguals. (Most tests do not measure this i.e. IQ measures convergent thinking when there is only one right answer). Bilinguals seem to think more freely, more elaborately and more creatively.
[Multilingual children are proven to have superior reading and writing skills in both languages, as well as better analytical, social, and academic skills.]
Wider communication – international links. Bilinguals may also be bridge builders between different language communities. Biliteracy gives knowledge of different world views and values communication within the family may be improved. Being able to communicate with each parent in the parent’s preferred language may contribute to making the parent-child relationship closer and enables parents to pass on part of their own heritage to their child.
Bilingualism is also valuable in enabling children to communicate with extended family.
Bilinguals have the opportunity to experience two cultures, complete with behaviour systems, traditions, stories, greetings….In short, they have two windows on the world.
Greater tolerance. It seems likely that bilinguals would be more tolerant of difference and diversity and less likely to be racist.
This article has kindly been provided by Waltham Forest Bilingual Group - a voluntary group estabilished in 2003 by families keen to promote the benefits of raising a bilingual family. For more information visit Waltham Forest Bilingual Group