The Benefits of Bilingualism: Social skills
When you think of benefits of bilingualism you think about travel and translating, right? Whilst these are already huge advantages, the effects of bilingualism stretch far beyond the mastery of another language. In our last blog post we discussed how bilingualism can increase adaptability, in this post we'll be discussing the effect of the multilingual environment on social skills.
It's can be hard to be "the new kid". However as we mentioned earlier in the week, for Third Culture Kids change is part of the routine and as a result it's not rare for TCKs to become well practiced in this role. This carries many benefits for the development of bilingual children's social skills, bilingual children are generally considered to build strong relationships with others and to integrate into social groups more easily than their monolingual counterparts. This ability to effortlessly form new social connections can also be attributed to the diversity of cultures to which they are exposed: being accustomed to multicultural and multilingual environments bilingual children are generally more accepting of difference in others and have greater interpersonal understanding.
Having mastered two or more different languages, bilingual children are required to make quick decisions and are constantly adjusting their language depending on their interlocutor. Each language has its own precise context, and it is up to the child to perceive and understand the context so that conversation is successful. Consequently their abilities to interpret context of a conversation are strengthened, and they have heightened levels of perception.
All the same being the "new kid" can still be challenging for Third Culture Kids, and gives them an understanding of what it's like to be new. It comes as no surprise, therefore, that TCKs tend to be more empathetic, open and welcoming towards newcomers.
In fact the challenges of a multilingual and multicultural environment lead bilingual children to develop understanding and maturity beyond their years, as they overcome certain emotional obstacles at a younger age. Global nomadism often involves a lot of mobility, both for the children themselves and those around them. As a result TCKs often deal with more successive losses than other children and must learn not only to deal with these losses, but to maintain links with far-away friends at a much younger age than their monolingual counterparts. These children also have their own Third Culture identity to define, and they must juggle the importance of remembering their origins with their integration into the new culture. Whilst these challenges are not always easily overcome, they lead to a more mature and open attitude towards others.
This openness of spirit extends to their attitudes towards , and multilingual children are often more accepting of other points of view. This is owed in part to the fact that multilingual children often attend international schools where they make friends of different nationalities and gain an insight into other cultures and countries, developing a more global vision of the world. In consequence, bilingual children tend to be more curious than shy of new cultures and new people.
So whilst raising bilingual children does not come without it's challenges - both for the child and the parent - here at Twin Exchange we know that it's worth it. The enhanced awareness, social skills and mental flexibility that bilinguals develop through the mastery of another language and through their multilingual environment enables them to thrive in almost any situation. As a result, they're able to flourish as more resilient, adaptable and open minded individuals and are prepared for any adventures that they may choose to embark on.
Written by Hati Witheley for Twin Exchange