Northern Beaches Mums Group
Northern Beaches Mums Group

Why bilingual education is more than learning a new language

It’s easy to assume that raising your child bilingual is simply a matter of whether you, as a parent, speak more than one language. If you only speak one language at home, then that’s it, right?

In reality, there are many ways to raise your child bilingual, including exposing them to a bilingual education from an early age. Bilingual education is the use of two different languages in the classroom, helping children to rapidly increase their understanding of more than one language at once.

It’s nothing like your old high school French class – this is a deep, fully integrated way of learning a language, akin to having parents’ speak multiple languages at home. In bilingual schools, students don’t just memorise vocabulary but are exposed to various languages in a living, breathing way.

In Australia, where English is the primary language spoken, bilingual schools are designed as immersion programs, while still supporting local language requirements. Schools such as Maple Bear choose the second language they would like children to be educated in based on the community and cultures in that area or centre.

The benefits of being bilingual

In the past, there have been concerns that teaching children two languages at once only confuses them. Fortunately, there has been much research that shows that far from slowing children down, bilingual education can offer benefits from infancy to old age.

There are the obvious pros, such as learning about another culture and being understood when travelling to that particular country. But there are also more unexpected benefits, with recent studies even showing that being bilingual may even guard against diseases like Alzheimer’s.

Speaking more than one language will improve your child’s abilities in more areas than the language department alone. Several studies have confirmed that being bilingual actually makes a person smarter as it has a profound effect on the brain, improving cognitive skills, improving attention, and sharpening memory.

Young bilingual learners have better concentration, analytical skills and multitasking capabilities, and learn to read sooner than monolingual students. These skills help to build up children’s sense of self-worth and identity, helping to boost their self-confidence in many other areas of life.

As a result, the demand for bilingual education is growing in Australia, with parents from a variety of cultures and backgrounds looking to raise their children in a more diverse, globally-led way.

Preparing your kids for a global future

The future is global, and for young people in Australia, the chance to travel and work overseas is a huge benefit to both their personal and working lives. Bilingual education helps students face the globalised challenges of the future labour market and prepares them for a world where bilingual job roles are increasingly common.

Bilingual students also have more options when choosing a university to attend as they can study abroad as well as at home and are not tied to just one system.

Exposure to more than one culture gives children a global perspective from an early age, helping them to better understand and relate to the world outside of Australia. Plus, once they’ve got one language under their belt, studies have shown that it’s easier to pick up even more.

Being fluent in more than one language opens up a whole new world of opportunities and experiences. In short, with bilingual education, the world becomes their oyster.

Carlos Ferri is the director of Maple Bear Australia, an education company that brings the best of Canadian education to Australia and the world by offering high quality bilingual (immersive) education opportunities for schools and child care centres. 

After arriving in Australia over a decade ago unable to speak English, Carlos has since learned the language fluently and has used his global knowledge to empower his business success and was awarded Sydney Young Entrepreneur of the Year 2019 and was included among Business News Australia’s Top 100 Young Entrepreneurs 2020. His experience puts him in the perfect position to understand the benefits of a bilingual education and the advantages and global perspective it gives students.