Expat Magazine

International Babies: the Bilingual Brain

By Internationalcouples @icouples

Multilingual babyRaising bilingual kids is doubtless one of the most fascinating and misterious phases for international and multicultural couples. Lots of questions, lots of opinions and very few certainties. I am starting a series of posts dedicated to international/multicultural babies and needless to say I will need your passion, ideas and input.

Can bilingualism 'confuse' babies?

A fairly common belief among international parents is that exposing babies to a second language will cause

confusion and will retard the process of learning. Others believe that it can also interfere with the intellectual growth. Recent studies, actually, show that international bilingual babies reach important moments and milestones as the same age as monolingual babies. Janet Werker, a psychologist at Vancouver's University of British Columbia explains how research demonstrates that, instead, bilingual babies possess a set of advantages compared to monolingual babies.

Language mixing, the so-called code-switching, can exist but this there is no proof of language confusion. Code switching responds to rules set within the community. In a family, for instance, bilingual babies would avoid code switching when addressing monolingual parents.

According to the Society for Neuroscience bilingual kids have been found to be better able to concentrate on a diverse set of tasks. Not only, but a similar ability has been found in bilingual adults also.

Furthermore, some scientists theorize that the use of two languages somewhow increases the flow of oxygen to the brain keeping, as a consequence, the nerve connections in better shape and delaying age-related dementia, Alzheimer's included.

How early should you start to expose your baby to languages?

According to Laura-Ann Petitto, Professor in Dartmouth's Department of Psychological and Brain Sciences and Department of Education, the child's brain will better flourish when exposure to the languages starts at an early age. According to her reasearch, in fact, early exposure allows the creation of two monolingual sections into the baby's brain. This allows babies to masterize the language and avoiding 'foreign' accents and language mix.

How early did you start exposing your baby to languages?


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