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Bilingualism: The Benefits and Challenges for Parents

Author; Anna Jachim

Bilingualism has many intellectual, emotional, social, and health benefits. Numerous studies on bilingualism over the past several decades confirm the positive impact of bilingual upbringing on children's development. Suffice it to mention the recent findings on the effect of bilingualism on delaying the onset of dementia in the elderly.

The best-known advantages are the subsequent ease of learning other languages, a diverse social network, and the possibility of an international career. But this list does not even scratch the surface. Lesser-known benefits are:

  • Increased creativity.

  • Improved attention.

  • Improved ability to abstract thinking (intellectual benefits).

  • Increased empathy.

  • Restraint in rash judgments.

  • Openness to diversity (emotional benefits).

Bilingualism often leads to biculturalism, increases personal sensibility, and widens one's worldview and cultural identity formation.

The influence of language on the parent's relationship with the children for people of Polish origin living abroad ( or other nationalities living abroad) can not be overstated. Language is not neutral. It is part of the emotional bond we maintain with another person. It will be different if we use our native language, and different when we communicate in the language of the environment (the majority language, but not ours), and still different if we each speak in "our" language. This seemingly paradoxical last situation often occurs in bilingual or multilingual families. Some children develop receptive bilingualism. They understand what the parent says to them in Polish/minority language but respond in English, as they find it difficult to express themselves in Polish.

Each parent will have to decide whether it's worth teaching children our native language, thus offering them the benefits mentioned above. I can only encourage all bilingual parents to do so. If you decide to do so, an incredible journey awaits you and your family, full of emotions, discoveries, and surprises.

Anna Jachim, a bilingual and bicultural parenting coach specializing in supporting parents in transferring minority languages (such as Polish) to their children, is the author of a book for multicultural children and two blogs on multilingual parenting. She has lived in France for more than 20 years. She has helped over 180 families of 24 nationalities in 19 countries in the past three years 180 families of 24 nationalities in 19 countries.

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