Hello. Hola. Bonjour. Salaam. Halo. Ni Hau. Language is an incredible phenomenon that allows us to communicate with one another. It provides us the power to share our thoughts, ideas, and feelings.
The United States of America, also known as the land of freedom and opportunity, has over 300 million citizens chasing the “American Dream.” Speaking more than one language has definitely helped many citizens turn their dreams into reality. Unfortunately, society’s hesitant attitude towards speaking more than one language has caused a global misconception about the benefits of bilingualism, therefore concealing the truth.
Some may argue that an individual must learn a second language as a young child in order to become bilingual; however, that is not true. Although it is easier to learn a second language at a young age, adults are still capable of becoming bilingual as well. It will not come as naturally, but with practice, fluency can be achieved.
According to the National Center for Educational Statistics, more than one in five school-aged children (21%) speak a language other than English at home. That number of bilingual speakers is projected to increase in the coming years (The Advantages of Being Bilingual, n.d).
False Claims of Bilingualism
Learning more than one language…
- confuses the child
- causes the child to have speech delays
- causes the child to mix up the languages
Benefits of Bilingualism
Learning a second language at an early age…
- Has a positive effect on intellectual growth, enriches, and enhances a child’s mental development
- Leaves students with more flexibility in thinking, greater sensitivity to language, and a better ear for listening
- Improves a child’s understanding of his/her native language
- Gives a child the ability to communicate with people he/she would otherwise not have the chance to know
- Opens the door to other cultures and helps a child understand and appreciate people from other countries
- Gives a student a head start in language requirements for college
- Increases job opportunities in many careers where knowing another language is a real asset (Benefits of Being Bilingual, n.d).
When I was four years old, my parents decided to enroll me in an Armenian preschool; therefore, Armenian became my first language. However, everything changed for me. The following year I was enrolled in an American school for kindergarten. I did not even know how a single English letter sounded. My years of elementary school were very challenging because I could not express myself. I remember my teachers constantly telling my mother, “Annie’s weakness is comprehension.” This constantly made me feel insecure because I thought that I was missing a skill that other children had. It made me feel different. It made me feel alone. And it made me feel worthless.
Although it seems like bilingualism affected me negatively, knowing another language had a positive impact in the end. First of all, it has provided me an unexplainable bond with my parents. I am able to express myself and freely communicate with them. Also, the Armenian language has helped me with expressing my thoughts in different ways and has given me a spectrum of perspectives. Many languages have terms that other languages do not; therefore, the more languages an individual knows, the more perspectives they are able to achieve. Another positive impact I gained from bilingualism is that the struggle of learning a second language motivated me to work harder to accomplish fluency in both languages. As a sixteen-year-old, I can proudly say that I can speak both languages fluently. I am striving to learn more languages and become fluent in those as well. Surely one cannot ignore the significance and importance of a language.
Originally published within the margins of Zealousness e-magazine in 2015. Revised and updated 2022.
Read more articles on Zealousness blog on personal development and self-actualization Personal Development – iN Education Inc. (ineducationonline.org)
- “The Advantages of Being Bilingual.” The Advantages of Being Bilingual. N.p., n.d. Web. 04 Jan. 2015., http://www.asha.org/public/speech/development/The-Advantages-of-Being-Bilingual/
- “Benefits of Being Bilingual.” Ñandutí Benefits of Early Learning. N.p., n.d. Web. 05 Jan. 2015, http://www.cal.org/earlylang/benefits/benefits_of_being_bilingual.html