Raising multilingual children requires effort and dedication from parents. Whether you’re teaching your child Urdu, Punjabi, Hindi, Spanish, Italian, Chinese or any other language along with English, you might have wondered whether it is worth it. Yes, it sure is! Sharing the various benefits of being multilingual to motivate you further!
I was raised multilingual in Pakistan, learning Urdu at home while getting instruction in Urdu and English at school. By knowing Urdu, I was always able to understand and speak Punjabi and Hindi. I learnt to read the Quran in Arabic from my maternal grandmother. I can read Arabic however I don’t understand the literal meaning without an Urdu or English translation. This might seem strange but it is quite common in the subcontinent as children are taught to read the Quran in Arabic as Muslims. The five Muslim daily prayers are also in Arabic. I took Japanese and German language courses in college. My knowledge of both these languages is extremely basic, however I wish I can make some time in the future to polish my skills.
Being multilingual has always helped me in life. Be it surprising people in Canada that I grew up in Pakistan but have proficient English language skills, having a conversation with a Punjabi taxi driver or understanding some sentences in a Japanese or German movie without subtitles. I have realized that whatever my skill level in a language, just having some knowledge of it gives me an edge.
My decision to raise multilingual children was an informed one. There were far too many benefits of being multilingual to pass on this opportunity for my children. In case you’re looking for motivation, here is a list of all the benefits of being multilingual.
The cognitive benefits of being bilingual have been proven by research such as better problem solving skills and the ability to process information. Bilinguals are better multi-taskers and equipped with superior decision making skills. These benefits extend into later age also, as being bilingual can delay the onset of dementia and Alzheimer’s disease.
Knowing another language develops deeper understanding of the culture. When children learn their mother tongue they develop a pride and interest in their heritage and roots. Language is the gateway to culture and by teaching your children Urdu or any other language you give them the gift of understanding where they come from.
No translation can do justice to the beauty of folk tales and poetry. Children experience greater connection to their cultural roots when they understand the language and the context.
They will have greater interest in travel, arts and books to explore the culture and will make their own connections be it with Abida Parveen, Ghalib or the inner city of Lahore.
Children develop deeper relationships with family by speaking the same language. The stories passed on by grandparents are priceless and when they are in the same language, the experience gets more rich and meaningful.
empathy and Global outlook
Learning a new language develops empathy and understanding of the culture. Bilinguals see the world with a new perspective and a deeper acceptance of the culture, a fact proven by research.
Multilinguals have great career prospects as translators, writers, negotiators, policy makers etc. They also have more potential within their own field such as lawyers, psychologists, actors, marketing professionals etc. The ability to speak more than one language allows them to tap markets and offer their services to more people more effectively.
Raising multilingual children is hard work! I hope this post motivates you to realize that it’s all worth it! I would like to conclude with a very funny joke I read on a friend’s facebook page.
A family of mice was surprised by a big cat. Mother mouse opened her mouth and shouted, “Woof woof!” The cat got scared and ran away.
“What was that, Mum?” asked the youngest mouse.
“Well dear, I’ve told you how important it is to learn a second language.”
This post is part of a wonderful series on the Piri-Piri Lexicon “A to Z of Raising Multilingual Children” where I’m covering B for “Benefits of Being Multilingual”. Do check it out through out February for some great posts by some of my favorite bloggers!
+ Urdu Resources on Urdu Mom