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If you aren’t a native English speaker or you’re raising kids abroad, having a bilingual child might not be a choice. But as dual language programs are popping up in schools all across America, it's becoming increasingly common. Whether you're considering Italian or Arabic, here are some things you’ll want to know before taking on another language.

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bilingual child reading

You Might Have to Work at It

If you think you can just let your kiddo watch a few episodes of Dora the Explorer and she’ll be speaking en espanol rapidamente, think again. Any language exposure is good, but if you want her to truly speak the language, you’re gonna have to put in some effort. Learning another language is a lifelong commitment for the entire family, so dust off your old Spanish textbooks and dive in.

bilingual child park
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Your Friends Might Doubt Your Efforts

Wait, shouldn’t your baby be good at English first? Won’t she start speaking later? Isn’t it confusing for her to hear multiple languages at once? No, non and nein. Don’t let your best friend’s failed attempt at learning German sophomore year in college stop you. Tiny brains are like sponges and can more easily absorb language skills. If you drown out the chorus of doubters, your kiddo might have mastered Serbian and be working on Mandarin by kindergarten.

bilingual child book

If They Don’t Use It, They Might Lose It

Just like any skill, your child will have to practice, practice, practice. Your toddler might pick it up quickly and sound like a native French speaker in a few short months, but if she isn't using it daily, there’s a good chance she won’t even be able to order a croissant in Paris as an adult without the help of Google translate. 

bilingual child game

They Might Have an Easier Time Staying Focused

Whether you’ve decided to teach your child Russian so she'll be able to speak to her grandparents or because you’re excited about the new season of The Americans, being bilingual might also help your child concentrate in school. Multiple scientific studies agree: Because they’re constantly switching gears between both languages, bilingual kids have high-functioning brains and frequently get higher scores on cognitive testing.

bilingual child laugh

They Might Mix Up Languages

Babies and toddlers are difficult to understand, but bilingual kids take it to a whole other level. “Je voudrais to go to the park, mama!” Say what now? Combining language is common and completely harmless, especially in the early stages of language development. Be prepared for some weird hybrid sentences and make sure to write the craziest ones down in his baby book.

bilingual child old

They Might Live Longer

Giving your child the gift of another language has cultural and educational benefits, but it might also make him healthier. A study conducted by the University of Kentucky has shown that speaking multiple languages may help delay or prevent the effects of Alzheimer's disease and dementia. In 80 years, your kid will thank French, Italian and German.

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