While picking some juicy blackberries in the back garden for my breakfast cereal, I noticed how well the pears are coming on this year and will soon also be ready for my morning muesli. Except for cutting the brambles back once in a while, it hasn’t required much effort from me to get these delicacies. I take the blackberries and pears for granted and it wasn’t until I noticed the price of a small punnet of blackberries in the local shop that I realised that it’s quite a valuable asset I have in the garden.
It came to my mind that it is the same with bilingual children, in some families it just happens: the circumstances are right and the children grow up to speak all the family languages. What a gift! Most of such families take this as a given and don’t think about how valuable their language skills are. Do you know how much it would set you back to learn a language as an adult? Remember that it is not only the cost of the tuition and the material but most of all the time investment it takes. The real cost for an adult to become as fluent in a language as a child who acquires it while growing up is significant – both in time and money.
There are of course all the other reasons why you should pass on your language to your offspring – all the benefits that bilingualism brings with it: social, educational, health, career and so on, but sometimes we forget that it will also bring a financial benefit. According to a study done in the US, bilinguals receive on average 3% higher pay than their monolingual peers. That might not sound much, but over a life time it will add up to a nice sum. Bilinguals also have better employment prospects and have a greater choice in where they live, study and work.
Taking into account how many advantages people with language skills gain not only for themselves but for their family, their employer and the country’s economy as a whole it is surprising how little governments do to support families who want to bring up their children to be confident fluent bilinguals. We should take every opportunity to be vocal about how important a matter this is and make sure we always appreciate the gift we have received and what we can offer our children.
May the peace and power be with you.
© Rita Rosenback 2013