Studies have long touted the benefits of bilingualism. It has been proven to make you smarter, more creative, and even more socially adept. And in our increasingly globalized world, speaking more than one language also provides a big leg-up in finding a job.
Making sure that their kids grow up bilingual and bicultural is a concern of many first-generation immigrant parents. Linguistic experts say three methods work best when it comes to raising a bilingual kid: 1) one parent is designated as the English speaker, while the other parent only speaks another language. 2) speaking a language other than English at home exclusively. 3) parents designate a specific time and place where a language other than English is spoken. There are other ways, of course. Rupert Murdoch and wife Wendi Deng (who's going through a divorce now), for example, hired a Mandarin-speaking nanny for their two daughters.
What do you do to make sure your child grow up bilingual? What are the challenges? The issue is also playing out on a city ordinance level. In Monterey Park, where Asian Americans make up a large part of the population, lawmakers recently gave preliminary approval to a measure that would require businesses there to put up bilingual signs. It's something the the City Council of Monterey Park tried and failed to do almost 20 years ago. Should Monterey Park businesses be banned from putting up monolingual signs?
For a look at the science, options and dilemma of bilingual learning, visit KPCC.org/language. You'll find a series of web and audio stories, profiles and a map of bilingual schools in southern California.
Barbara Pearson, Co-director of the Language Acquisition Research Center at the University of Massachusetts Amherst. And author of the book, “Raising a Bilingual Child) (Living Language, 2008)
Roxana Soto, co-author of “Bilingual Is Better: Two Latina Moms on How the Bilingual Parenting Revolution is Changing the Face of America” (Bilingual Readers, 2012)