The Benefits of a Bilingual Education

With four national languages, deciding on a school for your children in Switzerland inevitably carries an added choice. Do I educate them in a bilingual or monolingual environment? Of course, this decision should be highly personalised to the child in question and factors. For example, their age, previous schooling, temperament, and academic ambitions should be taken into account. Where parents find it appropriate to enter their child into a bilingual system, researchers and education experts agree there are enormous benefits to be reaped. Above and beyond the enviable gift of speaking two languages.

In the Swiss national schools, lessons are taught in French, Swiss German or Italian, depending on the canton. High German is also taught, so that Swiss German speakers are effectively bilingual. This means that expats usually gravitate towards an international school or a bilingual school. Previously, international schools in Switzerland tended to offer a monolingual, international syllabus, for example, an English one.

If parents wanted a bilingual experience for their child, they would have to opt for a bilingual school. It has now become normal for both types of schools to provide the opportunity to learn in multiple languages. At an international school, kids taking the monolingual curriculum may learn side by side with those in the bilingual system.

What exactly is a bilingual education?

The essence of a bilingual education is not simply the process of learning and studying two languages as subjects; it is the incorporation of the language into the actual teaching process. A bilingual education means studying your science, maths, art, and drama lessons in two languages. In this way it teaches the application of languages better than any once-a-week Spanish lesson could.
Outside specific schools, the most common way that children are exposed to a bilingual environment is in the home. Especially, when parents come from different countries with different native languages. Many families who have emigrated from one country to another have a bilingual life by default.

Some countries actually operate bilingual educational environments as a matter of course. Most obviously French Canadian or, in a more limited way, in Welsh and English education. For example, in the US, where there is a large Hispanic community, educationalists are actively promoting dual language models. In the Netherlands, some schools provide a bilingual education in Arabic, Berber and Turkish. In Hong Kong lessons are taught in both Cantonese and English.

The difference between learning a language in set lessons and learning it in an immersive environment is that students are more deeply locked into the language and its everyday use, ideally from an early age. They develop their skills more organically than learning from a set curriculum, as is the case for most monolingual children.

5 Ways Children Benefit from a Bilingual Education

A large amount of research is being done to discover how being exposed to a bilingual education benefits individuals as they grow up.

Cognitive benefits

Evidence from recent research is beginning to show that if you are exposed to a bilingual education and grow up with a high degree of literacy in both languages, you are more likely to develop better cognitive skills. These can provide advantages for learning and progress in later life. Although many parents worry about their child ending up with weaker skills in both languages and feeling confused, according to the New York Times, the conflict caused by learning two languages early on is actually a good thing:

Pre-school children learning in a bilingual environment tend to be more flexible in their cognitive behaviour and begin to understand more deeply at an early age the subtleties of how language works. This is thought to be one of the reasons why those exposed to a bilingual education develop better mental acuity early on, growing the tools to solve complex mental puzzles. Other research suggests that bilingual students are better at processing sound. Therefore, they are much more likely to pay attention in class, whatever the subject.

Cultural benefits

There are, of course, many cultural benefits to having a bilingual education. Moving between two different worlds means children come into contact and identify with the traditions and identities of each one. This is particularly the case with immigrant families and expat communities, where children may grow up with dual cultural identities.
The added level of communication skills and the necessity of developing keen listening skills can also lead to improved social competence that can help bilinguals to adapt more easily to different multi-cultural environments, as well as making them more attuned to subtle cultural sensitivities.

Being able to speak proficiently in two or more languages has always been hugely beneficial across different professions. However, it is increasingly so in the modern, “globalised” world that we hear so much about.

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The ability to adapt to and absorb different cultures is in itself a precious commodity to companies operating across multiple countries, with clients in different locations. Within these global companies, employees with multiple languages are likely to be valued more, and often paid more. In these huge companies, there are often opportunities to work in their offices around the world. This is often an incredibly rewarding experience.

Even if the corporate world is not for them, with two languages, they will rarely be out of a job. From the creative industries to the charity world, companies want employees with an innate sensitivity to cultural trends. To be comfortable interacting with a variety of people, and to have great communication skills. They can also feel safe in the knowledge that they can always support themselves through translation work.

Academic benefits

You would expect those with a bilingual education to be higher academic achievers than their monolingual peers, on average. Research at Cambridge University adds to the evidence that bilinguals have the edge in cognitive ability, social interaction and communication skills. It is no wonder then, that universities themselves prize language skills highly in those applying.

Long-term health benefits

There is a growing body of research into how the cognitive benefits of bilingualism extend to fighting off neurological diseases. For example, researchers in Wales are looking at whether being educated in both English and Welsh can help delay dementia and even Parkinson’s disease in later life.
Wales is not the only place where research into bilingualism and long-term mental health is of interest. Research in California found that, as well as earning more money, on average,

Is a bilingual education in Switzerland the right choice for your child?

In many countries, there are huge barriers to introducing a bilingual educational strategy. It is therefore one of the great opportunities to be capitalised on when uprooting your family from the comfort of your native land, and bringing them over to a multilingual country like Switzerland. If kids are young enough then a bilingual education can clearly be a fantastic opportunity.

However, placing your child in a bilingual environment is not a ‘no-brainer’, by any means. For example, if your child is over a certain age, or if they are reticent or particularly shy or disruptive, it may be counter-productive and push them beyond their limits. Although mostly children are incredibly adaptable with sponge-like brains ripe for picking up languages, if they are thrust into this environment when they are not suited to it, it may backfire and be detrimental. If this happens, far from developing the intended superior listening and communication skills, or the much hoped-for academic and professional boost, they can actually start to play up in class, or stop listening altogether.

Having said that, if parents have taken a considered decision to go for a bilingual education, most children can really thrive. Especially given enough patience, encouragement and support along the way. Most educators agree that starting at a young age is preferable, because younger kids acquire the skills more quickly, are less self-conscious and have fewer important exams and other pressures.

The preceding environment is also a consideration, in terms of whether they have always been taught in one or a few languages, or whether their parents are multilingual anyway, in which case they will likely take to the new environment like a duck to water. Long-term plans should also be considered, such as how long you plan to stay in the country, as it will take some time for them to gain the language skills. In this case, going through the adjustment period is worth it if you are there for a few years. However, probably not if the child will be moved again reasonably soon.

Therefore, a teenager who has spent their entire school career in a monolingual environment is probably not the best candidate to succeed after a sudden transition into a bilingual one. However, where international schools will accept monolingual children into bilingual streams up to the right age (this should be discussed with the teachers), can offer the right curricula to suit your child, and take into account their past experience and future goals, it may be the best thing you could do to help set them up for an exciting, intellectually stimulating, socially rewarding and global life.

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— Update: 11-02-2023 — found an additional article The Benefits of Bilingual Education and Its Impact on Student Learning and Growth from the website for the keyword benefits of bilingual education.

Approximately 5 million students in the United States are English language learners, and the number of English language learners (ELLs) in the US public school system continues to rise steadily, especially in more urbanized school districts.

According to the National Center for Education Statistics (NCES), students who speak English as a second language are more likely to struggle with academics, and only about 67 percent will graduate from public high school in four years—whereas the average for all students is 84 percent. ELL students can better develop their English proficiency and close the gap in achievement by participating in language assistance programs or bilingual education programs, the NCES explains.

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The benefits of bilingual education can begin with students in elementary school and follow them throughout their lives. Education’s impact can lead to a variety of outcomes depending on whether ELL students learn English in a monolingual or bilingual environment. Educators in diverse classrooms or working as school leaders should consider the benefits of bilingual education when creating curricula and establishing desired student learning outcomes.

What Is Bilingual Education?

While bilingual education can take many forms, it strives to incorporate multiple languages into the process of teaching. For example, since there is such a large Spanish-speaking population in the United States, many primary and secondary school students can benefit from educational environments where they are learning in both English and Spanish.

Bilingual education can often be the most effective when children are beginning preschool or elementary school. If children grow up speaking Spanish as their primary language, it can be difficult for them to be placed in English-speaking elementary schools and be expected to understand their teachers and classmates. In a bilingual classroom, however, young students can further establish their foundation of Spanish as well as English, better preparing them for the rest of their education.

Of course, this works for students who begin school speaking any language as their primary language. Children whose parents have come to the United States from another country may have limited English skills when they first begin elementary school. Teachers working in bilingual education classrooms will balance their use of two languages when teaching math, science, history, and other subjects to help these students develop a stronger foundation of their first language as well as English as their second language.

Academic Benefits

Students can benefit in many ways from participating in bilingual education programs or classrooms. Some of the benefits of bilingual education relate to intellect. For example, research has shown that students who can speak and write in multiple languages have cognitive advantages over their monolingual peers. Those who learn a second or third language from a young age are able to develop communication skills and a higher degree of literacy. Children who grow up in bilingual environments develop a keen awareness of how language works and have a stronger foundation for learning additional languages in the future.

Students can also benefit academically from bilingual education. Students who pursue higher education are typically required to take a foreign language at the collegiate level, so those who have been exposed to bilingual educational environments before college—and speak two or more languages—have an advantage over their peers. They can advance in their studies and feel comfortable with multiple communities of students on their campuses.

Students who are exposed to multiple languages throughout high school and college can also have long-term career benefits. Their proficiency in multiple languages is an advantage when they graduate and enter the workplace as professionals. Every industry has a need for effective communicators who can speak multiple languages to meet the needs of the growing number of English language learners in the United States. International operations also have a great need for professionals who can speak multiple languages and represent US-based organizations and companies.

Growth beyond Academics

While there are many benefits of bilingual education related to school and work, bilingual education programs also have a huge impact on students’ cultural and social growth. Children who grow up speaking English as a second language often come from culturally diverse backgrounds. Incorporating cultural education in the classroom can help create enriching academic experiences for all students.

Exploring multiple languages in the classroom provides a foundation for cultural education that allows students to learn and grow alongside classmates from a different cultural background. As a result, students learn to become more adaptable and more aware of the world around them.

To encourage the academic and cultural development of students in bilingual education settings, teachers should have a strong foundation in education and leadership. They should demonstrate a passion for teaching as well as an understanding of how language and culture work together in their students’ academic journeys. Educators should be aware of the role that policies play in the educational environments they cultivate and have an understanding of how to best represent their students’ cultural backgrounds.

Pursue a Master of Arts in Teaching or Master of Education in Education Policy and Leadership

To implement the best teaching practices in bilingual education classrooms, teachers should be equipped with a foundation in transformational leadership and cultural awareness. To that end, teachers looking to have a meaningful impact on the lives of their students can further their own education and pursue an advanced degree in education policy and leadership. Through programs like American University’s Master of Arts in Teaching and Master of Education in Education Policy and Leadership, educators can broaden their worldviews, engaging in topics such as education law and policy, quantitative research in education, and educational leadership and organizational change.

— Update: 14-02-2023 — found an additional article 5 Amazing Benefits of a Bilingual Education from the website for the keyword benefits of bilingual education.

Benefits of Bilingual Education

Are the benefits of bilingual education worth it? Is sending your child to a bilingual school going to pay off in the end? Choosing where to send them to school is a big decision and you want to get it right.

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If you are raising a bilingual child, their education whether it be monolingual or bilingual, is one of the most important things you will have to consider during their lives. So when making this decision there are many things to consider.

There are many advantages of being bilingual, and a bilingual education. If your child is bilingual when they are ready to start kindergarten or school, learning in a bilingual school can reinforce their languages and give them a great head start.

If your child can speak only one language, giving them a bilingual education can help them to acquire an additional language in a short amount of time. So if your home language is English, but you want to teach your child Spanish or Chinese for example, this is one way to be sure your child becomes proficient in both.

Immersing your child into the language on a daily basis long term, will not only help them to become proficient in the language, but will also mean they are exposed to other opportunities.

Here are 5 amazing benefits of a bilingual education

1. Cognitive benefits of a bilingual education

A bilingual education can strengthen the executive function of the brain. In fact, research shows that because bilingual students are able to use two languages at the same time, switching consistently, it develops skills for functions such as inhibition, switching attention, and working memory.

As such, students who are being educated bilingually, often perform better on tasks which require multi-tasking, decision making and problem solving, even though they have nothing to do with the language.

2. More options for further education

One of the major benefits of bilingual education is that kids are not only raised to be bilingual, but also to be biliterate. This can give your child more choices when it comes to choosing further education.

They will be free to choose which university they want to go apply for, in which country, depending on the languages they speak.

It will also be easier for them to participate in semesters abroad, or an exchange program where they can study in another country immersed in the culture of their second language assisting in their proficiency.

3. A bilingual education broadens career opportunities

Being fluent in an extra language can make a candidate stand out among prospective employers. It also open doors to extra opportunities that those without these skills may miss out on.

In today’s growing global economy, many international companies are increasingly searching for employees who are bilingual.  Those with a bilingual education have the advantage.

Candidates who are educated bilingually stand out from other potential employees especially if it is a language which is widely spoken.

4. Children with a bilingual education are more adaptable

Language isn’t just about learning sets of words and grammar, it is also learning about another culture and another way of life. The advantage of bilingual education gives children a broader outlook and brings them closer to different races and nationalities.

In a world that is constantly changing, communication is becoming increasingly important. Children who are able to communicate with a variety of cultures are the ones that will have more advantages in life.

5. A bilingual education creates more cultural opportunities

A major advantage of attending a bilingual school is that you get to meet with people from different backgrounds.

Learning about other cultures is important for children and helps them to understand the world around them. It helps them to grow up more open minded and accept differences.

Decisions when considering a bilingual education

As parents, you have many decisions to make when considering a bilingual education. Your choices can be determined by many factors such as where you live and which schools are available.

Will you send your child to an international school or a bilingual school?

There are differences. An international school will usually follow the international curriculum and students graduate with the International Baccalaureate which is world wide recognised. In a bilingual school, they may follow the national curriculum. In some cases, not all classes will be held in both languages equally.

What languages will be taught?

Will the languages taught be beneficial to your child? Any second language is beneficial, however choosing a language that your child will be able to practice out of school will be an even greater benefit.

There are languages which are said to be easier to learn, or harder to learn. However kids are extremely adaptable, and usually it doesn’t matter which language they are exposed to, they will pick it up anyway.

Will you need a bilingual tutor to help with homework?

Giving your child a bilingual education means that homework will come in both languages. If you do not speak the languages being taught, how will you support your child’s homework tasks? Hiring a tutor is a popular solution.

Are the benefits of bilingual education worth it?

Definitely! As you have read, there are numerous advantages and benefits of bilingual education, and children will certainly have an advantage in life learning and being educated in two languages.

If you have a bilingual school in your area and you are sitting on the edge not knowing what to do, go check the school out, speak with the teachers, watch the classes, and see first hand the benefits of a bilingual education.

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Benefits of bilingual education


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