Growing Up Bilingual

I feel lucky to have grown up bilingual. I have my mother to thank for that, who insisted I learned a foreign language. I also attribute my passion for travel to my maternal grandfather. He was a top executive at Braniff International Airlines in Argentina and we were fortunate enough to travel for free when we were kids thanks to him. I also look up to my grandmother. She was a world explorer and wanderer herself; she took me and my brother everywhere on her trips.

What my mother didn’t know – and maybe regretted later – was that by insisting on a bilingual education, she was encouraging her daughter to leave her home country.

And that’s exactly what I did. With mastery of the English language, which I learned early in preschool in Argentina, and being a native Spanish speaker, I left home as soon as I became of age. Driving by the domestic airport (“Aeroparque”) as a kid meant freedom. It was a gateway for exotic adventures across distant lands. I always knew I’d be a perfect adventure-goer as I possessed a critical skill: bilingualism.Bilingual Kids

Here’s why I think every kid would benefit from growing up bilingual:

  • Learning another language will open doors to new cultures and ideas, as it did for me. By learning a foreign language, you also end up loving the culture and shapes the way you think.
  • Once you master the first foreign language, learning other languages becomes easier. I picked up Portuguese in a matter of weeks while living in Brazil. Somehow my brain was already wired for learning.
  • There is nothing more rewarding than being able to help and translate for someone who doesn’t speak the language. Serving as a bridge between two different cultures helps people understand each other better and reach a common ground. Being able to switch from one language to another is also personally fulfilling.
  • Bilingual children are more adaptable and flexible. Since I moved from California to Miami last year, I noticed that my children are finally grasping Spanish and embracing the Latin culture. This is all thanks to people here in Southern Florida who are bilingual and bi-cultural by nature. My kids’ personalities have changed for the better; they are now resourceful, open-minded, and hopefully will become citizens of the world.
  • Bilingualism opens many doors: from job prospects, to friendships and relationships. Being bilingual will offer you twice as many options and possibilities. You’ll never be bored! Life will be more colorful, interesting and full.

 

Consuelo Lyonnet
consuelolyonnet@mac.com

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