Being able to speak more than one language has a profound effect on the brain, says paediatrician and paediatric neurologist Dr Wendy Liew. “They are cognitively more flexible, with the strongest effects seen in general intelligence, memory, attention and language.”
These skills will surely come in handy in the future to help your child secure his dream job and be more in demand in the workforce – especially in an increasingly globalised world.
A study published in the National Center for Biotechnology Information notes that because of their advanced thinking skills, bilingual students also score better at tests and are usually more open to tackling challenges. The study also suggests that a bilingual mind is protective against the effects of cognitive aging.
If you’re ready to give your child all these benefits, but don’t know where to start, here are six easy ways to get the ball rolling…
Infographic: Rachel Lim
1.Start from young
Babies’ brains are like sponges, so chat with them in both languages. Your cutie may not respond but she’s absorbing everything and storing it for when she can. Switch from one language to the next simultaneously in your everyday conversations with bub. An easy way is to tell her what you’re doing, like when you’re changing her diaper or preparing her bath. It’s also a good idea to get the grandparents involved and encourage them speak in their own dialect whenever they visit bub or babysit.
2.Boost brain development with nutrition
A nutritious and balanced meal will help your budding linguist concentrate to the best of their ability and learn to their full potential. This is especially important when they are at the start of their linguistic journey. Along with the different food groups, include milk and other DHA-rich foods such as salmon, eggs, yoghurt, peanut butter and milk formula, into their diet. You can also supplement child’s diet with foods that contain vitamins, minerals and prebiotics.
3.Immerse them in the language
Keep exposing your kewpie to all the different languages, through books, songs and cartoons. Also pick a preschool that offers the languages you want her to learn, so that she will be continuously exposed to them even when you’re not around.
4.Use the one parent, one language (OPOL) technique
If your child comes from a biracial family where both parents speak different languages, speak your native language or respective second languages to your child. Continue speaking to your child in your language, even if they look disinterested. Just hearing the language will help them absorb it.
5.Set up play dates with bilingual kids
Kids learn best by imitating others, especially peers their own age. So, set up playdates with other children who are also being raised as bilinguals. Watching them interact, speak and respond to various languages will inspire your tyke to do the same.
6.Integrate the language into a favourite activity
Children won’t find it a chore to pick up a new language if you incorporate it into an activity they already enjoy doing. Listening to the radio, singing songs or even dancing to music will increase their awareness of languages and they will surely pick up a word or two along the way.
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