Raising Bilingual Children

I recently came across information about Speaking in Tongues, a documentary which follows four diverse children on a journey to become bilingual.  As the website states, “At a time when 31 states have passed “English Only” laws, four pioneering families put their children in public schools where, from the first day of kindergarten, their teachers speak mostly Chinese or Spanish.”  Before I continue, take a peek at the trailer:

The film discusses the growing need that parents are feeling to raise their children multilingual.

Our idea in making Speaking in Tongues was to showcase a world where these communication barriers are being addressed. An African-American boy from public housing learns to read, write, and speak Mandarin. A Mexican-American boy, whose parents are not literate in any language, develops professional-level Spanish while mastering English. A Chinese-American girl regains her grandparents’ mother tongue—a language her parents lost through assimilation. A Caucasian teen travels to Beijing to stay with a Mandarin speaking host family. Their stories reveal the promise of a multilingual America. Each kid’s world opens up when they start learning two languages on the first day of kindergarten; each is developing both bicultural and bilingual fluency. [link]

The film advocates the idea of raising children bilingually but also touches upon the difficulties of doing so, particularly because as a society many have not accepted this idea as a good thing.  We’ve discussed the importance of preserving Panjabi several times on this blog (here and here).  We live in a global community and deal with a global economy – I believe that children should be encouraged to learn more than one language (while i hope Sikh children learn Panjabi growing up, it’s also important that our children learn additional languages).  Companies often look for employees who speak multiple languages.  The Department of Defense invests hundreds of millions of dollars into teaching languages deemed “strategic” to national security.

So what are your thoughts about multilingualism?  Are you raising (or will you raise) your children bilingual/trilingual?

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3 Responses to “Raising Bilingual Children”

  1. MrSingh says:

    My wife and I live in a predominantly Spanish-speaking area. Our children are being taught english and punjabi and are learning spanish in the neighborhood. We think it is great. We also know of several families who have hired nannies/cleaners who speak spanish – hoping their children will be exposed to the language that way. The desire to raise bilingual children is very much alive.

  2. Rajinder Singh says:

    Can you tell me which tongue lets a person speak the only the Truth ? If a person is a liar, no point being multilingual, as it will cause trouble in many languages. Wish Hitler had no tongue. The world would have been saved from a lot of destruction. A snake has two of them. Politicians have many more. On the other hand, what is the point of being multilingual and getting tongue-tied when it is most needed ?

    Tongues cause lots of other problems too. Harsh words spoken can cause pain that can last a lifetime. Salivating tongues cause health problems.

    In a nutshell, I am all for content over style.

  3. It is a meaningful blog and an appropriate blog to ponder for parents or parent aspirants living in multicultural, multiethnic cultures. Simply stated more languages learnt more power you feel inside. How you harness that power for 'Sarbat da Bhala' is another issue.