I know that raising kids bilingual can be a great blessing to them in the future. I am a native English speaker, but have learned a second language which is rarely used in the world.

My real question is, are there any benefits to being bilingual OTHER THAN simply knowing a second language? If I raised my child as bilingual, I can almost guarantee they would have no use for the second language. Is there some other benefit to being bilingual? Is it worth me raising my kids bilingual even if they never use their second language?

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    Yes. Bilinguals use more of their brains than monolinguals. This can have a positive effect on brain development for the rest of one's life. But it would of course be much better to do it with a language that is actually spoken in one's environment. I have no children, but if I did, I would do everything I could to raise them as bilingual speakers of English and Spanish, or of English and Chinese, etc. I have near native abilities in German, but I do not see much advantage for bilingual speakers of English and German in the environment where I am, the US. Spanish would be much be better.
    – Tim Osborne
    May 27, 2014 at 20:35
  • This question seems to be off-topic since it is about teaching, not about linguistics. Perhaps, Academia suits better, but re-check my words. However, yes, studying language gives your child ability to understand a different culture by reading books and communicating with others who think differently than in your neighborhood.
    – bytebuster
    May 27, 2014 at 20:56
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    It doesn't matter what the language is; if you're really a fluent speaker of it, and make the commitment to speak only in that language to the child so that they can get all the colloquial phrases, then it's going to be good for the child. Any language provides a different way of describing experience, so it provides a stereo view. In the country of the one-eyed, a two-eyed person has an advantage.
    – jlawler
    May 27, 2014 at 21:23
  • Even L2 knowledge makes you a much more sophisticated user of your L1--especially if L1 is English and what they learn about the language is restricted to the travesty which is current US primary and secondary pedagogy.
    – StoneyB
    May 27, 2014 at 21:46

3 Answers 3


I'd say YES too, even if your child don't really need it. My chidren are all bilingual: we live in an english-speaking country, they speak English at school and, well, everywhere ; but at home we speak French, that's the rule. If you want to teach him that other language, then really use it, giving him a lesson once a while in that language wouldn't do much, you'd have to tell him things in different contexts. Like, read him a book in that language, that can be your "night time story", or sometimes tell him things in that language, it doesn't have to be a long conversation, just a few words here and there, for instance if you are cooking pasta you could say "do you want pasta ?[in English] I love pasta ! [in your other language]". (I don't agree with Midas above: yes you can speak different languages to your children, one sentence in one language and the next one is another language, it doesn't matter! learning the language itself is very different from learning when to use it, you will see that later you will have to tell your child "please speak in English, Mr Smith doesn't speak Klingon", which is really another topic than learning Klingon at all -- but indeed you shouldn't mix both languages in one sentence, because then it would be confusing, it would be like teaching another weird language, neither English or whatever-other-language-you-speak...)

And I can see indeed that being bilingual help you to learn other languages. My son especially, he is very good with languages, he is currently learning indonesian at school (just two hours per week or so) and he is doing very well. Because of course he has already learned that things have many names in different languages, once you get that you can call a chair a chaise, a klouk or a whatever, it really doesn't matter.

Plus, you ask if it is worth doing it... Well, if you are speaking a very rare language, you probably need every possible occasions to practice, don't you? It would be good for you. It would also be a great learning experience for your child later, when you tell him why you know that language even though you can't use it a lot.


My daughter is 2.5 years old and is already multilingual. She can speak 4 languages and one of them is English. I am sure that extra languages are never a waste. One way or another a child has a use for them. As many already said, multilingualism has a good effect on the way kids use their brain and they can express themselves better. Just remember a golden rule: You must address your child in one language. If you switch between languages, the child will never learn them both well. Let the other language to your partner. If you have family members that are also bilinguals, you should also tell them to speak one of the languages.

You might also find this article interesting: http://www.nytimes.com/2012/03/18/opinion/sunday/the-benefits-of-bilingualism.html?_r=0


Yes. Bilingualism acts as insurance policy against dementia. People who are bilingual get dementia and alzheimers less often/later than monolinguals. As a related side note, is that in rare cases people get brain damage that spares their second language but not their first. Brain damage of that sort does happen often enough to warrant the effort. (Dementia on the other hand is depressingly common). There is a New York Times article somewhere about this benefit.

If the second language you choose is ASL (or what ever the sign language is in your country) you get two benefits: you can communicate with your child a whole year before they can say anything verbally. Also about 1% of people are deaf (more accurately, on a continuum of deafness) A good chunk of those are older people, who are late life deaf. And they don't know ASL. To learn ASL late in life is like learning Chinese late in life. So often these people find it easier to just be cut off from communication and resort to less efficient forms of communication, like writing everything down. I did the baby ASL thing with my son and plan to keep it up-- it helps that I happen to live close to one of the larger deaf communities in the US.

It occurs to me you've already assumed that all languages are economically useless, which doesn't hold-- people who actually know certain languages (and need them for their job) get paid a premium for it. It's really hard to predict what language will be profitable 18 years in advance before you kid has chosen a career. It's less of insurance and more of a lotto ticket-- Japanese, for example, pays off if you are lucky enough to work in Engineering and need to travel to Japan (which my niece does, so this isn't like unheard of)

As for other benefits of languages that you don't speak, you might want to google the various reasons people of come up with to study Latin, Biblical Greek, Esperanto (people speak it, but usually not in your community), or Klingon. Many of these reasons are particular and whimsical and would depend on your family circumstances.

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