Acquiring fluency in more than one language offers plenty of practical advantages in a highly globalized world. While using one’s mother tongue enables a person to form a deep connection with their heritage, among other benefits, having a firm grasp of a second language can empower a person to further expand their horizons. For one, knowing a second language can help improve a person’s employment opportunities. Aside from finding work in a location or a capacity where their mother tongue is widely spoken, bilinguals can also venture into places or disciplines that use their second language, and there, pursue a career or vocation that would otherwise be out of reach. However, the benefits of learning a new language go beyond its economic advantages; the process of learning a new language can also have a profound positive effect on a person’s development and perspective.
Singapore is a multilingual city-state. The majority of the country’s inhabitants are fluent in English and one or more of its three other official languages. If you’ve just moved to the city with your family, you won’t have a hard time finding a school here that uses English as its language of instruction. However, if you want your child to develop a deep understanding of a second language alongside their mother tongue, it’s a good idea to look for an academic institution with a dedicated bilingual, biliterate, and bicultural language program. There are a few key differences in how these programs handle language learning compared to schools that treat languages simply as class subjects. Here are the advantages of enrolling your child in a bilingual school.
Seamless Transition for New Learners
Moving to a different country is a significant change for any family. If this is the case for you, then perhaps you’d want to enroll your child in a school that can help them adapt to their new home. Bilingual schools often have transition programs that make it easier for students to adjust to their new environment, culture, and language. These transition programs are overseen by educators who can guide language learners of all levels, including those who are only familiar with their mother tongue, those who have a basic understanding of a second language, and those whose grasp of their second language is on a par with the mastery of their mother tongue. Depending on the student’s needs, the transition program can focus on language lessons or familiarizing the student with their new learning environment.
Guidance of Bilingual Role Models
Many of the schools that offer bilingual language programs employ teachers and teaching assistants who are also bilingual. In addition to helping students improve their grasp of another language, these educators serve as a model of what it’s like to be deeply familiar with two or more languages. They understand the differences and similarities of the languages they use, how shifting from one language to another can affect a person’s perspective and way of expressing themselves, as well as the difficulties that students often face during the different phases of language learning. Because of this, they can offer their students practical advice on how to overcome challenges during their own language-learning process.
Consistent Language Development
A student’s mother tongue and their second language are more than just academic subjects in a bilingual school. These academic institutions aim to help students attain a high level of proficiency in their target languages. To do this, bilingual schools often use their students’ target languages as modes of instruction in different subjects. For example, even if they use an American curriculum, Singapore schools with bilingual programs will still conduct half of their classes in English and half in Mandarin. This practice ensures that students are able to use their mother tongue and second language on a daily basis, and they can pick up words in both languages that correspond to their current level of language education.
Increased Awareness of Other Cultures
On top of focusing on language acquisition and mastery, bilingual programs aim to raise their students’ awareness of other cultures and practices. This not only provides students with more enriching learning experiences; it also helps them gain a better understanding of the nuances of the languages that they are learning. Perhaps a lesson on the different levels of the courtesy present in some languages can help students understand a country’s traditional social hierarchies, or a lesson on tenses can help them see the ways different cultures perceive the passing of time. Being aware of these details can help them cultivate a cosmopolitan perspective and appreciate the people around them.
It can take a long time for anyone to master a language, but even just the process of learning a new language can improve a student’s cognitive function and problem-solving skills. Enrolling your child in a school with a dedicated bilingual language program today will not only equip them with useful skills, it will also enable them to see the world from a much wider perspective.