If you’re feeling overwhelmed by toddler twins that won’t listen, or sit still, and look borderline feral – queue me – then I have some encouraging news for you today. Our children are language geniuses.
I’m not kidding. From birth to seven years old, our children have the ability to absorb and learn a language at a native speaking level. Does anyone ever ask you if your children speak a twin language? Tell them yes. Because they do. Children have the ability to communicate differently because of their brain development.
(Full disclosure: our twins attend this school because we wanted to expose them to different languages, cultures, and world views as soon as possible.)
3 Reasons to Give Your Kids a Bilingual Education
1. Higher test scores and critical thinking skills.
Encouraging children to learn different languages unlocks their potential for the long term. From cross-cultural appreciation, critical thinking skills, and a greater understanding of the spoken and written word, it enables our children to see the world more richly.
Listen to what Dr. Johnson has to say:
Research shows over and over again that multilingual speakers are more likely to concentrate better, score higher on standardized tests (e.g. SAT), think more critically and metacognitively, learn additional languages, and build more cross-cultural friendships.
And beyond the research, we are seeing this played out daily. Every young child is developmentally a language genius and we get to watch our students absorb language like a sponge, while our first graders are learning grade-level content in both Spanish and English.
2. Nurturing the language genius of a young child.
Research shows that a young child (0-7 years old) has high plasticity of the lobes, which allows our children to learn through their senses. Dr. Johnson explains how language comes into play:
Young children apply their senses through initiation, exploration, and creation. Yet, to learn this information, you need language. If you think about it, humans cannot know and retain information without language. Language is the key to identifying and categorizing knowledge. Are there any concepts you know for which you have no language to describe them?
So what does language have to do with the brain? The language center of the brain is found in the convergence of all of the lobes. Therefore the malleability of the brain allows infants, toddlers, and young children to acquire language with excitement and not stress as they explore the world.
The high plasticity of the brain keeps children from being concrete thinkers, but allows them to learn language to organize and retain all of the information they are learning. As a result, preschoolers are peroperational thinkers and language geniuses. Once the lobes in the brain begin to solidify, children’s capacities to think multidimensionally takes off, yet at the same time, their ability to acquire language at the native level decreases.
But beyond the research, just ask a mother of twins if they do “twinspeak.” It blows my mind that 2 year old twins can create a new language and speak it fluently.
3. Building Cross-Cultural Relationships.
Have you ever logged on to social media and immediately worried about the state of our world? Well, we can fix that by raising kind humans. And, interestingly enough, bilingual education is a catalyst for just this concept.
Dr. Johnson says,
Beyond what we have already discussed with cognitive advantages, multilingual speakers are more likely to build more cross-cultural relationships. Speaking specifically to twins, it creates a skill set for them to interact with more children outside of their twin circle. But not only that, it renormalizes life, to where friends can look differently and speak differently. For more information on forming intercultural children before culture builds up prejudicial walls, you can check out my blog on unintentional racism.
Are you feeling better about your crazy multiples? You should. Just the fact that they are twins, triplets, or more – they are learning new ways to communicate and embrace the world.
If you’re curious like me, Dr. Johnson has all of the research to back up bilingual education. I’m not saying I’m super type-A and wanted to know EVERYTHING about his school before I enrolled our twins there, but, yes, I am that person.
And finally, if you think Dora the Explorer is sufficient, think again. Dr. Johnson states:
By the time children become concrete thinkers, they have lost their ability to acquire language with native-level facility. Waiting for elementary education classes is too late, and putting them in front of Dora la exploradora is too little. Finding a play-based immersion program is just right.
I personally wish I was exposed at a young age because this is the extent of my language ability. My high school Spanish classes leave me with nothing but a simple “adios” to end this post.
Stefani Zimmerman Drake is a wife, twin mom, and lover of rescue dogs. As a strategic communications consultant who runs her own business in Charleston, South Carolina, Stefani and her husband spend their time capturing all the sweet moments of their girls, while always dreaming about their next big adventure. You can follow their adventures online or via Instagram stories.