Is it a good thing to raise your baby to be bilingual?

06 November 2013
Presented by Hannah Critchlow.

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We find out if raising your baby to be bilingual is a good or bad thing for brain development.

In this episode

00:00 - Bilingual babies brain development?

We find out if raising your baby to be bilingual is a good or bad thing for brain development.

Bilingual babies brain development?

Hannah - This week, we climb the tower of Babel to get our brains around this.

Ester - Hello, there. My name is (Esther) and I am calling from Madrid. I came back to Madrid to take care of my niece (Alyana). She's just 1 year old. Since then, I haven't spoken to her solely in English. So, my question is, is it okay if I speak to her in English or I am delaying her learning? Thank you so much for your help.

Hannah - So, is it good to raise your baby bilingual? We turn to developmental linguist, Professor Antonella Sorace from Edinburgh University.

Antonella - The short answer is, yes, raising a baby to be bilingual certainly affects his brain for the better.

Hannah - Aha! But I'm sure I've heard raising a baby with two languages is actually bad for development, that they won't do quite so well at school?

Antonella - What is coming out of research is a completely different picture. Bilingual children tend to be better for example at understanding how language works in general. And so, they pick up other languages more easily. They tend to learn to read earlier than monolingual children. They find it easier to appreciate that other people can have different perspectives and different points of view. Bilingual children also tend to be better at focusing attention and monitoring their own behaviour.

Hannah - So, there are long term benefits of being brought up bilingual, including as published this week in the American Academy Neurology, delayed onset of old age dementia. So, the bottom line for Esther...

Antonella - I would say, Esther, go for it. Try to speak English to your baby and to create many opportunities as possible for your child to hear English and to get engaged with English.

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