Thursday, July 19, 2007

A good reason to expose your infants and toddlers to multiple languages

They'll probably grow up more tolerant:
Caroline Bowen, the wife of a frequenter of this site, Don Bowen, is a speech pathologist in Australia. I imagine she might have something to say about this:

A STUDY of newborn babies and preschoolers has revealed that language may be the root of prejudice - and the way to avoid it.

US and French researchers have found that the language babies hear spoken in their first six months of life leads to a preference for speakers of that language.

The preference is so entrenched that by age five youngsters prefer playmates who not only speak the same language but do so with the same accent.

A key implication of the findings - reported in the US publication Proceedings of the National Academy of Science - is that children exposed to different languages grow into more tolerant adults than their monolingual mates. [full text]

Let's just say there was a reason I liked Dora the Explorer, as well as Sesame Street, etc. Of course it doesn't hurt for parents to model to their children speech in multiple languages (even modeling the process of learning is beneficial). My Spanish is very rusty, but I've been teaching the young ones whatever words and phrases I happen to remember. If that ends up being one facet of facilitating this new generation to become a bit more tolerant than my own, all the better.

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