Australia is a nation with great linguistic diversity: Australians speak over 160 different languages, with around a sixth of all Australian children speaking another language at home. As a result, bilingual early childhood care and education are growing trends in Australia. When deciding whether bilingual education is right for your child, here are some factors to consider.
Fluency in a global world
In an increasingly interconnected world, fluency in multiple languages will be increasingly important for everyone, and early childhood is the best time to develop language skills. Studies have shown that children who begin learning languages earlier have an easier time developing correct pronunciation and developing their vocabulary. Greater fluency later in life is important for employment and educational opportunities, but it also provides unique opportunities for cultural enrichment, opening up a world of art, travel and exposure to other cultures.
Improved fluency is a useful skill, but there is evidence to suggest that learning another language at an early age has even more far-reaching effects. According to research by Canada's Hanen Centre, bilingual children show improved executive function, meaning that they have a greater ability to focus on main points and ignore distractions. Other benefits of early exposure to a second language include improved planning and problem-solving skills and even a reduction of the effects of age on the brain.
Education for bilingual children
Not all children going to a bilingual early childhood centre speak only English; many already speak another language but need to develop their English fluency. Early childhood education has been cited as a key factor in developing English fluency. For other families, bilingual early childhood centres aren't simply about developing English fluency: instead, these families are trying to preserve a child's knowledge of their home language. Maintaining fluency in an English-dominated society can be challenging, even for families who speak another language in the home. Bilingual early childhood centres play an important role in achieving both of these goals; this type of education has been recommended as a method both of maintaining fluency in the home language and developing English fluency for children from bilingual families.
The benefits of a bilingual early childhood
In a multicultural nation and an increasingly interconnected world, increased language fluency is important for anyone. Bilingual early childhood centres offer an accessible, enjoyable way for children to develop not only their language skills but also their cognitive abilities and their outlooks on the world.