Spanish. Check. English. Check. Italian. Still in progress.
Being bilingual in today’s society is a profitable benefit, which many employers seek out in potential employees. Beyond employment, knowing more than one language can be a real asset in higher education and life, in general.
Research has shown that learning a second language as a child or adolescent can aid crucial developmental skills. Some of the benefits that bilingualism provides are critical thinking and task switching. Task switching, is essentially the ability to be able to attend to a certain social cue or situation; this includes the ability to switch between two languages effortlessly.
Growing up Bilingual
As mentioned in my piece First Generation Dreams, the topic of bilingualism can prove to be challenging for a child or adolescent. Research however, provides a distinct tone in the discussion of bilingualism. Despite much research, I view the difficulties of bilingualism first and foremost much like many other ethnic minorities also do.
Benefit of the Doubt
One interesting point brought up from the research was the idea of empathy. Research suggests that children develop empathy and knowledge of social cues associated with the culture whose language they learn in a bi-literacy program. With Trump’s administration still going rampant on issues of immigration, race, and xenophobia, this should provide hope for future generations.
In addition, there is a sense of value and importance placed into these students by immersing them in programs of bi-literacy and diversifying the groups. Growing up, bilingual in a predominantly Polish neighborhood and attending a primarily English-speaking school, I felt culturally isolated. There was no emphasis on the importance of identity in one’s language and cultures. It wasn’t until high school that I became fascinated in the Spanish language and the culture associated. Fast forward to my university experience, present day, I now realize the importance of preserving my cultural identity and the role that language plays.
ln the changing society that is the United States, bilingualism has proved itself more and more essential. The idea of bilingualism and bi-literacy programs in schools is just the beginning. The next step is expansion into universities, towards a more bi-literate student body. By encouraging and, or requiring students to acquire more than one language, there will in turn be a better cultural understanding and global perspective, versus a narrow-minded English only, Trumpian society.
(Illustration by Bashi)