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Trilingual Kids, Good Or Bad

by on 22/05/2018     533 2210

Multi-Ethnic & Multi-lingual

Malaysia is a multi-ethnic country whose population is made up of three different major ethnic groups; Malay, Chinese and Indian. Malaysia's national language is Bahasa Malaysia or Malay, the very language spoken by the predominantly Malays. Non-Malay communities who are Malaysian were thus required to learn to speak the national language, which isn't their first language. As a result, they are endowed with a working knowledge of not only Malay language, but also English and of course, the language of their mother tongue.

It stands to reason why most non-Malays in Malaysia are by default bilingual (mother tongue + Malay), if not trilingual (mother tongue + Malay + English) even. There are also Malays who are proficient in speaking more than one language, namely Malay and English, sometimes Chinese. Malays who are proficient in Chinese are usually those who have been schooled in Chinese vernacular schools.

Nearly all subjects in the primary and secondary government school, with the exception of English, are taught mostly in Bahasa. Pupils were also required to sit for various compulsory Bahasa Malaysia papers from the minute one enters primary school up to the tertiary education. Come to think of it, what this meant is, Malaysia is such a country that promotes multilingualism. Is it good? It's definitely good because Malaysians get to benefit from the perks of learning to speak more than one language.

Benefits of Becoming Fluent in Another Language

Studies have shown learning or speaking a foreign language apart from one's mother tongue has a lot of cognitive and social benefits. Here are some of them:

1) Good work out for the brain

Every language has its own unique, intricate system of structures and rules. Learning a new language is thus undeniably hard. Although hard, learning a second language or third can be beneficial. How so? Your brain is constantly challenged every time you made an effort to recognise or communicate in a different language. This "challenge" ultimately improves the functionality of your brain. It gives your brain a good work out, thus improving your memory.

2) Sharpens one's mind

Albert Costa, a researcher at the University of Pompeu Fabra in Spain had conducted a study making known that multilingual individuals are known to be far heedful of their surroundings. They tend to become far more perceptive. "Bilinguals have to switch languages quite often - you may talk to your father in one language and to your mother in another language. It requires keeping track of changes around you in the same way that we monitor our surroundings when driving," postulated Albert Costa.

3) Improves children's communication skills

Katherine Kinzler, associate professor of psychology and human development at Cornell University, postulated that children who were raised in an environment which somehow compels him/her to learn more than one language were eventually better at understanding other people's perspectives. You communicate better when you're able to perceive something from someone else's perspective.

4) Reduces risk of dementia and Alzheimer

Several studies have found that, with regard to monolingual individuals, their earliest signs of dementia can be detected as early as when they're 71.4 years old, whereas individuals who are multilingual are at the age of 75.5 years old. Furthermore, Suvarna Alladi, Professor at National Institute of Mental Health and Neuro Sciences, Hyderabad remarked that "Speaking more than one language is thought to lead to better development of the areas of the brain that handle executive functions and attention tasks, which may help protect from the onset of dementia."

1) Improves multitasking skills

A study by the Pennsylvania State University discovered that multilingual individuals, children in particular, are typically adept at multitasking too. This is because learning a new language also requires multitasking; that one needs to be able to switch between two complex structure of speech and writing of any language when needed.

Teach Your Child A Foreign Language?

Good idea. One advice, get started early. Every infant, for example, is known to have the ability to mimic the sounds of any language that s/he hears. If you want your child to learn another language, start speaking to your child in the very first year of his/her life. Also, make sure your babysitter or caregiver speak the same language you're teaching your child in. Alternatively, if you're unable to teach your child the language you wanted him/her to learn, enrol your child in a language class for children

Good Or Bad?

Being fluent in more than one language carries numerous social and cognitive benefits. So, knowing more than one language is definitely good. How to get started? You may learn from someone who speaks the language. Alternatively, there are dozens of online language classes these days. Give them a try!