Raising Children to be Bilingual

Raising Children to be Bilingual

I often hear, oh you speak both English and French to your children, that will help them with future jobs. Well, let me tell you, that has pretty much zero reasons as to why I chose to speak bilingually to my children. As of matter of fact, yes, it has helped me work in my field, but it is not why I am choosing this path for my children. Let me explain.

When I met my husband, I already knew that in my future I wanted kids, I had even told him that I would raise them to speak both English and  French. Id he has not liked that idea, we wouldn’t be together today. Yes, it was that important to me that I wouldn’t be with someone. But why so important?

  1. Being bilingual is what makes me ME

I grew up in a small French community with French-speaking parents. We spoke French at home, but we learned to speak English too. I went to a French school but grew up in a province where English is the dominant language, you quickly learn to speak both languages.

I love that I was able to speak both languages with my family and friends. Now, with my children, they can do the same. It’s amazing to me that at a young age, they know who to speak in French with and vice versa. It doesn’t faze them.

They have no problems speaking either language in their sports or if they are learning a new skill, such as piano. Learning to do things in both languages, stretches them to be adaptable.

2. Being bilingual helps with cognitive behaviour and learning

There are many studies out there that have shown that learning more than one language has a significant advantage for brain function. For example, this article “Why learn a foreign language? Benefits of bilingualism” states the following reasons :

  1. Smarter
  2. Build multitasking skills
  3. You stave off Alzheimer’s and dementia
  4. Memory improves
  5. Become more perspective
  6. Decision-making skills improve
  7. You improve your English

3. Important to learn about different cultures

In my opinion, it is very important to be tolerant and accepting of others even though we may not always agree. I believe by being more open to other cultures, you open up to being more tolerant and accepting. You aren’t closed off and are learning about others through yourself. If I could teach my kids more than one language I would, but I only know of two. I can teach them about my French heritage, culture and traditions that I grew up with.

My husband and I are doing the best we can to teach them both English and French. He grew up learning Core French in an English school, but through my push to speak French at home with my kids, he is learning through them. He may not be fluent in French, but he can understand when someone speaks it. I am proud that he has accepted this for our family.

How do we make it work?

With school, I am the one who has contact with the school and teacher and I help with homework such as reading or writing. My husband will help if I am busy with the baby or if I am away. He even tries to read the notes we receive from school which is great. Any effort is appreciated by me.

We balance each other as much as possible. For example, I may be the primary helper for school, but my husband is the primary help for the extra curricular activities the kids do. For example, he will take them to their sports such as hockey all the time unless he is away from work. This works for us.

I want to stress that this was what works for our family, it doesn’t necessarily work for all. I am grateful we have the option to choose our school here and that we have access to both official languages. We do what work us, just as you all choose to do what works for you. We are all doing the best we can and that is all that matters!!