My three year old son speaks three languages - English that he learned in daycare, French that he learned from daddy, and Russian that he learned from me. There is no question about how proud I am of myself and my husband for deciding to raise our children multilingual. And there are definitely obvious benefits to it. One of them is being able to communicate with them on a deeply emotional level, meaning to be able to express the exact feelings that you are experiencing at the moment (which is hard to achieve while speaking language that is not your mother tongue). Another benefit is that it's good for children's general development and might even increase their IQ in the future.
However, there are also hidden benefits that I have never really thought of before my son got a little older...
1) I don't have to be embarrassed for what he says in public.
- Mama, look how small that little man is.
Me thinking: "OMG, please be an American," - smiling gently to the man who is smiling back.
- Yes, he is pretty small, but don't point, please.
- Mama, what is this man doing? - pointing at a sportsman passing us by.
- And wiping his boogers with his shirt.
- Nope, that's him wiping his sweat with his shirt.
- Ruslan, let this woman go first.
- Mama, ha ha, you are so funny - it's not a woman!
- What do you mean? It is a woman.
- Noooo! THIS is a man.
2) I don't have to be embarrassed for what I say in public.
- Ruslan, if you put your hat on, I will give you a piece of chocolate. (Huh? Did anyone hear that? OMG, I am bribing my son... Woopty doo!)
- Ruslan, you'd better stop this right now, or this man over here will get reeeaaaally angry and put you in that dirty scary corner over there... (Ok, I admit - messed up on many different levels)
- Ruslan, don't touch that dog, who knows where it's been!!
Smiling kindly to the owner. - "What a cute puppy!"
3) He seems to understand me even without any pronounced words.
I can swear, sometimes I don't need to tell him anything for him to understand what I need. Since he was a toddler, he would put things that I threw (and missed) on the table where it belongs, he would bring me socks if he saw that I am looking for something while barefoot. Now, he brings me water if he notices that I have hiccups, he closes the gates as soon as Remi starts running down the hall, and he literally finishes my sentences when I forget to or am too slow talking. I can almost bet that it's due to his exposure to different languages and the skill that he acquired through it - to understand the meaning of something without depending on the actual word that it's called. It's pretty amazing to see in a 3 year old.
I would not change it for the world. And I recommend to and encourage anyone who has a chance to teach their kids other languages to keep at it.
Thank you for reading. Does it offend you when you hear someone speaking another language in front of you? Did you know what they were saying before I told you? ;)
More from parenting