September Medical Minute

Today I’m thinking about language – English, Spanish, Chuukese and more – and multilingualism.  Around 25% of children in our Reach Out and Read KC catchment area are growing up in homes where English is NOT the first language!  In the United States, the three most commonly spoken languages are English, Spanish, and to my surprise, French – though in Kansas and Missouri the third most commonly spoken language is…Mandarin. 

For our young patients who are English language learners, we recommend that within their household, they are encouraged to speak the primary language of that household.  Maintenance of the “home” language is important.  Development of strong skills in the home language helps to build English language skills.  It is important for them to be grounded in the primary language to learn grammar structure and rich vocabulary.  Children will be immersed in English in so many other ways, and will quickly learn a second, third or fourth language. Caregivers often feel that it is so critical for their children to learn English ASAP, that they are reluctant to be speaking their own primary language – this actually may impair a child’s learning if they are exposed to grammatically incorrect English at home.  

For those reading this who speak more than one language, I suspect you know that it’s a gift!  Bilingual/multilingual speakers are shown to have more nimble brains, higher paying jobs, later onset of dementia and more…in addition to being able to communicate with folks who are not yet comfortable in English.   Help your children learn a second or third language!  This expands their world view, their opportunities for travel, admission to top tier colleges and access to higher paying jobs.

“… it is only in America where the idea that one might speak in just one language has any traction. In many countries, second and third languages are taught as a matter of course.  It provides students with an understanding that we live in a global community in which one must come to understand other languages, history, and cultures.”            

 Stan Beiner, educator/researcher 2012

See this website for resources about raising bilingual children    American Speech-Language Hearing Association

Thanks to our amazing donors, ROR-KC has a wonderful collection of bilingual books in 26 different languages!  This way, caregivers can share the book in the language of origin, while at the same time, parents are supported in their own English language learning with the text.  Thank you all for your continued support that allows us to purchase these books.

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