Saturday, 30 August 2014

Bilingual Children - Pros and Cons for Them and their Parents

Posted by Rosie

Having lived in France since they were 4 and 5 years old, our boys are both bilingual and speak French far better than we could ever hope to.  Hopefully this will give them a huge advantage when looking for work but there are some other perhaps less well documented pros and cons for both them and their parents.

Advantages of being bilingual for children:

  • They can slip into French so their English speaking friends cannot understand them and vice versa.
  • They can try and swear in French and hope I won't realise ... although I am becoming wise to many of the "gros-mots" they attempt to slip past me!
  • They can speak and understand jokes in 2 languages.*
  • They have more TV channels/books/magazines etc to chose from.
  • They can happily watch dubbed TV programmes without getting totally confused when actors sound different to what we expect and they are not worried by the fact that the actors' mouths are not in synch with what they are saying. I never realised how much I lip read until trying to watch Downton Abbey dubbed into French!
  • Research indicates a wealth of  other advantages including better concentration, a boost in confidence, improved multitasking skills, increased creativity and enhanced logic all of which can stay with the children through their lives and may even delay the onset of dementia.

* The first and possibly only joke I heard and understood in French was this one:

Q.  "Quel est le numéro de la poule ?!"
A. "Quatre, quatre, quatre 'n' oeuf!"

For parents of bilingual children there are also some advantages:

  • As they get older you can use them as walking dictionaries to translate words and phrases you are struggling with.
  • You can sit back and be immensely proud as French people do not realise your children are in fact English (until you open your mouth and let the cat out of the bag).

But there are also disadvantages:

  • You cannot slip in French to say something in front of your bilingual child that you do not want them to understand.  A French friend swears in English so his children don't understand what he is saying .... we'll have to learn a third language to be able to do this and frankly swearing in anything other than pure Anglo-Saxon at the moment when the hammer makes contact finger is the only language that really works.  I quite like the Bulgarian "О, мамка му" but I doubt I am gong to remember that when it really matters!
  • You have to bear the indignity of having your children correct your poor accent, grammar and wrong use of words ... A LOT.

For bilingual children then the advantages are many and varied - for their parents they may be a bit more limited but overall the balance is good, so long as you can learn a third language that they don't know and you don't get offended when your children continually correct you!

Can you think of any more advantages or disadvantages of having bilingual children? 

Parenthood Highs and Lows


  1. Rosie, it also makes learning further languages easier. That is what we have noticed with our bilingual Italian children. One is currently studying Spanish, the other French.

    1. Good point, Cathy. Thanks for that. Our two will start to learn Spanish in a couple of years so hopefully they will find it easy!

  2. I think it's much easier for children to pick up than adults

    I've no experience but would love mine to learn from a young age

  3. I think it is brilliant if kids can speak more than one language. All I can manage is GCSE French (and that's patchy!). I'm glad schools these days are focusing on languages, as I want my kids to learn one. Thanks for linking to #SuperparentSaturday


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