Advantages of Bilingual Children Who Learn a Second Language Early in Life

Updated on August 11, 2017

Speaking Multiple Languages is Increasingly Common

We live in a society that is becoming increasingly global, with blurring lines across languages and cultures. There are over 6,500 languages in the world today, and only 196 countries. The United States is by no means a monolingual country. According to the 2010 Census, over 350 languages are spoken in US households in addition to English. Over 20 percent of US households speak a language besides English at home, or have a mother tongue besides English. That number is rising every year, and as a result, the number of bilingual children is also rising. More and more children are growing up exposed to more than one language, whether it be because they live in a multi-cultural, multilingual household, or because their caregivers choose to expose them to other languages because of the known benefits of being bilingual.

Advantages of Bilingual Children

Research has pointed to clear benefits for children who are brought up learning more than one language. Below are some of the areas that dual language proficiency seems to benefit most.

Cognitive Development

When someone knows multiple languages, both of those languages are active in the brain simultaneously, and they must mentally separate them when thinking or speaking. In order to operate in one language or another, bilingual individuals are accustomed to tasking their brain to switch back and forth between language systems. Because of this, multilingual kids tend to be better problem solvers. They have better memories and are able to recall things more quickly. Once they know two languages, they have a greater ability to acquire a third language or beyond.

Emotional and Social Development

Especially if they are going to be around family members or groups that only speak one language or the other, it is an advantage to a child to be able to communicate clearly with each group. If, for instance, they frequently stay with one grandparent who speaks only French, and another who speaks only English, if they know both languages they are able to communicate and form a deeper bond with each grandparent. Studies also show that bilingual children tend to be able to better focus and control or regulate their behavior, making them less likely to act out and more prone to adjusting well in groups of their peers.

Aptitude for Learning New Concepts

Children who know more than one language have a better capacity for learning new concepts quickly. If they are proficient in two more languages, children have been shown to more easily grasp new ideas in other disciplines such as math and science.

Appreciation of Different Cultures

If a child is speaking more than language, they have the ability to connect with others across multiple cultures in a way that monolinguals do not have. They can observe a different culture directly, rather than just reading about it or being told about it. This could lead to a more inclusive view towards others of any culture, not just those that they are associated with.

In addition to these benefits, when children enter adulthood knowing multiple languages they may have a higher chance of employment in certain industries. Education, government, and healthcare are just some of the industries in greatest need of employees who are able to communicate with others in other languages.

The Bilingual Household

The way in which children become bilingual (trilingual, etc.) can happen one of two ways: either they learn the different languages simultaneously from birth, or they learn them sequentially, one after another. Proficiency in both languages may be quicker, especially initially, with simultaneous language learning. Those who learn one language first and then are thrown in to another may experience a temporary delay in both languages, but with proper support will be able to catch up to their peers.

When learning languages simultaneously at home, many households will have each parent speak primarily in their native tongue to the child. In these cases, the child usually associates one language with each parent, and will communicate with each of them in their corresponding languages. This approach should not be considered the only option for operating a bilingual household, however. If one or both parents are proficient in multiple languages and feel comfortable speaking them to their child, there is no problem with them teaching their child one of their non-native tongues.

It is not recommended that a parent attempt to teach their child a primary language they are not familiar with, without exposing them to any other. This can result in confusion and language delay in the child.

How to Expose Your Child to Multiple Languages Early On

Even if your household does not speak multiple languages, you can still take steps toward raising a multi-lingual child if that is a priority for you. Some ideas include:

  • Enrolling your child in a language-immersion daycare or school
  • Hiring a babysitter or nanny who is fluent in another language and have them speak that language with your child
  • Before and after school foreign language programs
  • Video series dedicated to preschool language learning
  • Setting up play dates with another family that speaks another language
  • Frequent travel to places that speak the target language

Challenges of Raising a Bilingual Child

Despite the clear advantages to raising your child to be proficient in more than one language, there are many challenges you may face:

Initial Mixing of the Multiple Languages

Children are not able to differentiate between different languages initially. To them it is all serving the purpose of communication. It is not uncommon for a multi-lingual child to start a sentence in once language, finish it in the other, or switch off several times along the way. As they mature and are exposed more to each language, they will be able to differentiate between the two. Once we know more than one language, however, we never really shut either language off, and even adults who know multiple languages are tasked with mentally differentiating between them while thinking or communicating.

Favoring one Language Over the Other

Some children go back and forth between favoring one language or the other, while others may naturally become more dominant in the other. Once they are receiving formal education they will most likely favor the dominant language used in that setting. If you want them to remain proficient in other languages, they need consistent exposure and practice while not at school.

Possible Language Delay

It is a myth that bilingual children will experience any kind of permanent language development barrier if all other factors are constant, but some suggest that being brought up bilingual can cause an initial delay in verbal development. Once they do begin speaking, however, they usually catch up to their peers. This delay may result from the high volume of vocabulary the child is exposed to.

Regression Once They Go to School

Kids want to fit in with their peers. If everyone at school is speaking English or some other dominant language, they may see it as “uncool” to speak the other language(s) spoken at home, and may go through a period of refusal to speak more than the dominant language.

In Conclusion

Raising bilingual children can have its challenges, but offers many benefits. If your family speaks multiple native languages at home, it could be in your children’s best interest to make an extra effort to teach them those languages.

This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.


    0 of 8192 characters used
    Post Comment
    • profile image


      9 months ago

      Yes even i belong to this category. From my childhood i know two to 3 languages to speak and write. Later when i grew up and during my graduation i have learned another language through blogs training. Hopefully you have listed these amazing facts about here.

    • profile image


      12 months ago

      How does being bilingual impact a child’s cognitive and social development? and How can bilingual children be best supported in early childhood?

    • Myrtle Tran profile image

      Myrtle Tran 

      2 years ago from USA

      If your children have little time to write an essay at school, and you as a good mom can help your child using our service high quality quickly and your child will be happy

    • profile image


      2 years ago

      We were already raising our kids bilingual (English and Polish) ad when we decided to go trilingual, we heard A LOT of objection (that it will "impair their speech", "confuse them" etc). But after only ONE YEAR of Chinese kindergarten, look what happened: So all I can say is don't be discouraged, persevere, and believe in your child :-)


    This website uses cookies

    As a user in the EEA, your approval is needed on a few things. To provide a better website experience, uses cookies (and other similar technologies) and may collect, process, and share personal data. Please choose which areas of our service you consent to our doing so.

    For more information on managing or withdrawing consents and how we handle data, visit our Privacy Policy at:

    Show Details
    HubPages Device IDThis is used to identify particular browsers or devices when the access the service, and is used for security reasons.
    LoginThis is necessary to sign in to the HubPages Service.
    Google RecaptchaThis is used to prevent bots and spam. (Privacy Policy)
    AkismetThis is used to detect comment spam. (Privacy Policy)
    HubPages Google AnalyticsThis is used to provide data on traffic to our website, all personally identifyable data is anonymized. (Privacy Policy)
    HubPages Traffic PixelThis is used to collect data on traffic to articles and other pages on our site. Unless you are signed in to a HubPages account, all personally identifiable information is anonymized.
    Amazon Web ServicesThis is a cloud services platform that we used to host our service. (Privacy Policy)
    CloudflareThis is a cloud CDN service that we use to efficiently deliver files required for our service to operate such as javascript, cascading style sheets, images, and videos. (Privacy Policy)
    Google Hosted LibrariesJavascript software libraries such as jQuery are loaded at endpoints on the or domains, for performance and efficiency reasons. (Privacy Policy)
    Google Custom SearchThis is feature allows you to search the site. (Privacy Policy)
    Google MapsSome articles have Google Maps embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
    Google ChartsThis is used to display charts and graphs on articles and the author center. (Privacy Policy)
    Google AdSense Host APIThis service allows you to sign up for or associate a Google AdSense account with HubPages, so that you can earn money from ads on your articles. No data is shared unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
    Google YouTubeSome articles have YouTube videos embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
    VimeoSome articles have Vimeo videos embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
    PaypalThis is used for a registered author who enrolls in the HubPages Earnings program and requests to be paid via PayPal. No data is shared with Paypal unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
    Facebook LoginYou can use this to streamline signing up for, or signing in to your Hubpages account. No data is shared with Facebook unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
    MavenThis supports the Maven widget and search functionality. (Privacy Policy)
    Google AdSenseThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Google DoubleClickGoogle provides ad serving technology and runs an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Index ExchangeThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    SovrnThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Facebook AdsThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Amazon Unified Ad MarketplaceThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    AppNexusThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    OpenxThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Rubicon ProjectThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    TripleLiftThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Say MediaWe partner with Say Media to deliver ad campaigns on our sites. (Privacy Policy)
    Remarketing PixelsWe may use remarketing pixels from advertising networks such as Google AdWords, Bing Ads, and Facebook in order to advertise the HubPages Service to people that have visited our sites.
    Conversion Tracking PixelsWe may use conversion tracking pixels from advertising networks such as Google AdWords, Bing Ads, and Facebook in order to identify when an advertisement has successfully resulted in the desired action, such as signing up for the HubPages Service or publishing an article on the HubPages Service.
    Author Google AnalyticsThis is used to provide traffic data and reports to the authors of articles on the HubPages Service. (Privacy Policy)
    ComscoreComScore is a media measurement and analytics company providing marketing data and analytics to enterprises, media and advertising agencies, and publishers. Non-consent will result in ComScore only processing obfuscated personal data. (Privacy Policy)
    Amazon Tracking PixelSome articles display amazon products as part of the Amazon Affiliate program, this pixel provides traffic statistics for those products (Privacy Policy)
    ClickscoThis is a data management platform studying reader behavior (Privacy Policy)