New babies and friendships: The Bilingual Baby Brain

I couldn't help but read this article and think of my dear friends who just had a beautiful baby boy. After I shared my congratulations, no sooner did I send a text message subtly (or not so subtly!) to ask about which languages they are using at home. Knowing me well, my friend sent a message back, saying, 'Defo speaking both, we love bilingual babies!' Ahhh, I could rest now. Both parents speak English and Mandarin. Thy are not following any rules e.g. one parent one language, but instead are using language fluidly and interchangeably. They are making a conscious decision and a sensible one at that. You see, they have linguistic resources at their disposal and their son is the benefactor of this strategic and conscientious approach. What they are modeling in their family, is what happens most naturally in a bi/multilingual household. It is not uncommon to hear a family sitting around the dinner table, speaking in more than one language at any one time. Bi/multilingual families have the opportunities to use their whole language repertoire in the most authentic of ways. 40 years ago, as a small child, I grew up in a multilingual household where my grandparents spoke 4 languages often in one sentence! As a young baby I heard Serbian, Greek, French and English quite regularly. However, it was the 70s in Canada, and at that time, it was more important to assimilate; and so, English was deemed as most acceptable, particularly in society and in education. It makes me sad to think that my grandparents were not encouraged to share their languages with us. It just wasn't the done thing. The article below grabs our attention as it links bilingualism to smarts. Yes, bilingual babies' cognitive gains are well known. However, more importantly, in my view, is what bi/multilingualism brings to the individual as a member of a global community. Recognising a child for who they are includes both accepting and embracing their bi/multilingualism. By providing a setting both at home and in school for the child to communicate using their whole language repertoire is truly inclusive. It's not just about increased cognitive benefits, but also about valuing a child for who they are which will help them to have a good sense of self as a learner and as a member of our global community. So for any expectant parents, who have the gift of languages in their families or communities, use your whole language repertoire, not only will you help your baby cognitively but also emotionally, setting them up to have a strong sense of of their whole self.

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