Babies in their second month of life are the ultimate challenge for parents: sleepless nights accruing at an exhausting pace, an emerging baby personality that is not always as complacent as the once sleepy newborn, and for me – keeping up with our bilingual baby challenge. Happily, I was inundated with articles and research sent to my inbox on all the many benefits of raising children in a bilingual home, encouraging me to hang in there. These positive findings are not news to us. (Why would I take on this extra task if the research suggested it was not good for our babe?)
I don’t believe it is really news to anyone; it seems like common knowledge that all studies point to the tremendous advantages bilingual children have over monolingual children as they grow. The major difference with this common knowledge? So few Americans heed it compared to other health studies we embrace. Take for example the following:
We know not to drink, smoke, have caffeine, indulge in no-no foods or ride roller coasters during pregnancy. Easy.
We all know that fruits and veggies are a must, and we come up with every creative way to get our kids to like them. From cute cut-outs to delicious dips, we are on it!
Reading is critical. We begin reading to the babies in utero and keep it up until…? Well, we sometimes still read to our 6th grader, so I’ll let you know when that ends.
Put them to sleep on their back, baby-proof the house, establish a routine, eliminate BPA from bottles, buy DHA fortified formula (what is that exactly?), limit TV, encourage imaginative play, have them in sports and activities, don’t have them over-scheduled, put them in a rear-facing car seat until they are one, no solid foods until 6 months, no honey for one year, no peanut butter for three years, get that binky out by two, have them potty trained before three, …. the list goes on and on of what we abide by and I haven’t even left the toddler years!
But – we don’t listen to this advice. And by we, I’m not pointing the finger at parents here. School boards and educational funding across the nation have slashed foreign language education at the expense of math and science in an effort to make “us” more competitive with “them.” The ironic thing? While we are working so hard at improving our standing compared to other countries, we ignore the one thing they ALL do that we don’t: LEARN MORE THAN ONE LANGUAGE. “They” have it figured out; they may learn English because of its signifigance in the world, but by doing so, they are increasing their cognitive development a hundred fold over our under-exposed, isolated children, making their students better equipped to function in math, science, or cognitive processes as a whole. Humph. Yet another thing the moms du jour have to take care of on our own.
So – I’ve listed some of the articles here for those that have made it this far in the post. Read and enjoy, because chances are you were among the lucky classes of students who still attended schools that made you take a foreign language. Then, let’s get together and add even a little bilingualism to our babies’ days. Count the buttons on their shirt in Spanish. Ask them what jelly they prefer on their toast in French. Bless them after a sneeze in German. Point out the colors on their favorite toy in Russian. Let your baby know that an apple is also une pomme; his brain is programmed to retain that, and like all things about these little ones, that programming lasts only a short while. Whatever you do, have fun with it and let your child in on the fact that English is not the only language in our great, big world. After all, if your child would only agree to eat one type of vegetable only one time a day, it would be better than nothing and you would serve it with a smile!