I am living in a region where two languages are spoken. During the last months of pregnancy me and my partner talked a lot about the possibility of raising our child monolingual or bilingual.
So, we read different books and several research papers. Here, I will cite the ones which were the most relevant for us.
Almost the majority of studies focus on preschool kids and on early school years. Education is a long-term process, however, the early years are crucial for establishing basic skills toward education. The main reason is that it is easier for children to learn new languages compared to adolescents. When two languages are learnt at a preschool age, the same area of the brain cortex is activated. On the contrary, when a second language is learnt at a high school age, a second and different area of the cortex is activated.
The capacity of differentiate between two languages is a very early process. If the fetus has been exposed at two languages, when the baby is born, he/she will be able to distinguished the two different languages.
The best way to raise a bilingual child at home is the OPOL method. OPOL means one person – one language. The idea is that each parent speaks only his/her mothertongue with the child. Playing with children is the more effective way to teach them two languages at the same time with little effort both from parents’ and from children’s point of view.
Researchers report only benefits in having a bilingual child.
Studies demonstrated that bilingualism is a form of brain training that improves development and allows bilingual children to perform more difficult tasks than their monolingual peers.
Barac et al., “Behavioral and Electrophysiological Differences in Executive Control Between Monolingual and Bilingual Children”, (2016), https://doi.org/10.1111/cdev.12538
Bialystock, “Bilingual education for young children: review of the effects and consequences”, (2016), https://doi.org/10.1080/13670050.2016.1203859
Gagarina et al., “Narrative abilities in bilingual children”, (2016), https://doi.org/10.1017/S0142716415000399
Ribot et al., “Language Use Contributes to Expressive Language Growth: Evidence From Bilingual Children”, (2017), https://doi.org/10.1111/cdev.12770