Skip to main content

Advantages of bilingualism

A highlight of the conference entitled "Gaelic Medium Secondary Education: A model for the 21st century", held in Glasgow last weekend, was a talk by Colin Baker of the University of Wales, who is one of the world's leading experts on bilingualism. Professor Baker listed the following advantages to children of being bilingual, which have been identified by research projects around the world.

* Bilingual children have two or more words for objects and ideas, so the links between words and concepts are looser, allowing more fluent, flexible and creative thinking.

* They can communicate more naturally and expressively, maintaining a finer texture of relationships with parents and grandparents, as well as with the local and wider communities in which they live.

* They gain the benefits of two sets of literatures, traditions, ideas, ways of thinking and behaving.

* They can act as a bridge between people of different colours, creeds and cultures.

* With two languages comes a wider cultural experience, greater tolerance of differences and perhaps less racism.

* As barriers to movement between countries are taken down, the earning power of bilinguals rises. In modern Scotland, Gaelic speakers are in great demand - in the media, in education, in local and national government.

* Further advantages include raised self-esteem, increased achievement, and greater proficiency with other languages.

"Through language, a child is cared for, cherished, cultivated and cultured," says Professor Baker. "Within any language is a kaleidoscope of cultures whose full colour and beauty are only revealed to those fluent in the language."

Log in or register for FREE to continue reading.

It only takes a moment and you'll get access to more news, plus courses, jobs and teaching resources tailored to you