Learning to converse and communicate in our mother tongue is essential for a child’s overall development. In metropolitan Singapore, we are used to speaking and reading in English, a de facto language which is spoken universally by people of all the races here and is used to teach all the subjects in school — except of course, mother tongue.
Advantages of learning a second language
Being proficient in mother tongue benefits a child in many ways. Also known as the native language, mastering of our mother tongues ensures better cognitive development and aids in the learning of other languages.
Researchers have found that learning two languages greatly increases our mental development. Bilingualism is proven to be able to simulate the intellectual development of not only babies but their grandparents and others from the age ranges in between.
Studies have also shown that the first language a baby learns permanently hardwires his brain to think in that particular language. Understanding a second language has the potential to expand his thinking capacity as his brain will be constantly thinking in two languages.
1) Building social bonds
Bilingualism also promotes the building of social bonds. In addition to opening up a child’s world to different language communities, bilingual children think about other people differently when compared to monolingual children.
Researchers in Canada have recently discovered that bilingual children developed the ability to befriend people more democratically; refusing some of the “just like me” preferences typically present in children. Bilingual children have also shown lesser racial bias compared to monolingual children. Thus, being bilingual gives the added advantage of opening up a child’s socializing abilities and the early potential of building social connections.
People are also more welcoming if you approach them in their native tongues as they feel a common connection. Speaking anyone’s native language is a steadfast way to winning them over– from sales pitches to building client relationships, many aspects of business will go smoother with a multilingual skillset.
Children proficient in their mother tongues have also shown stronger relationships with their grandparents. This is evident as most grandparents were usually educated in their mother tongues and are not exceptionally dexterous in the English language. Communicating with their elders in their native tongues permits the child to learn more about their culture, differences in lifestyles the elder generations faced and even traditional recipes — most of which have been lost with time.
2) Better creativity and expression
Bilingualism facilitates the intermingling with a wider range of people and instantaneously exposes a person to different cultural mindsets and perspectives. Exposure to different viewpoints will influence a person’s concepts and idea generation without limiting him to his own thoughts. This is advantageous especially if a person is looking for new ideas or designs. By mixing different elements of these ideologies, a person will also be more successful in coming up with unique and out the box ideas.
The act of continuously thinking and conversing in two languages also focuses the mind. As expressing something in different languages means adhering to the particular grammar and syntax rules specific to the language, a person has to spontaneously think how to translate his words when he is required to convey his message in another language.
Learning another language also helps you say the unsayable. There are thousands words which cannot be expressed or have no equivalence in English. Discovering new words broadens a person’s vocabulary and gives him a wider worldview.
Language learning also improves your body language. It is normal for us to use our actions to help convey the point we are trying to get across. Body language is also important as it help us express our feelings and make the other party understand us better. This is also useful as mispronunciation is common when speaking foreign language. Using our hands and facial expressions is another way to successfully deliver our message to the other party.
3) Ease of learning a new language
Ever wanted to learn a third language but found it hard to remember other words apart from “hello”?
Bilingualism makes it easier to learn new languages and research have proven that bilingual adults pick up a foreign language more effectively than their monolingual counterparts. Bilingual children also demonstrate the same abilities. While monolingual children lock into one language, bilingual children remain open to language differences facilitating their uptake of new languages.
Having a bilingual skillset has many advantages we can apply both socially and in our professional lives. Keep our cultures and traditions alive by not neglecting our native languages. They make up part of who we are and what we represent.