By Emma Clarke
We all want a bilingual baby right? Think of how helpful your little bundle of joy could be when on holiday abroad. No more pronunciation blunders. No more mistranslations.
I’m joking. The desire to make sure that a child speaks more than one language goes further than facilitating a stress-free holiday. Bilingual babies have been proven to hold an advantage over monolingual ones. A 2009 study showed that multilingual babies were quicker at performing cognitive tasks. Click here to read our previous blog detailing the many benefits of being bilingual.
These benefits carry on well into old age with bilingual adults less likely to develop dementia.
But what can you do if you and your partner speak the same language? Here, my friend, is where apps come in. Not only can they help find you to find a parking space, or flush the toilet (don’t ask), apps can allegedly also help you to nurture your baby bilingually.
There are many apps on the market. Where do you begin? Which apps are worthwhile and which are worth deleting?
How do children become bilingual?
In order to assess how efficient an app is likely to be, we must understand how babies become bilingual. In a nutshell, multilingual toddlers and babies first listen to a great deal of spoken language and then they begin to imitate the sounds around them.
Does this app do what it says on the tin? It starts off with a series of flashcard, but then the baby has to choose the correct animal. I like that it includes an interactive game. Bearing in mind how important pronunciation is to becoming bilingual it’s good that a Spanish native speaker reads out all the words.
I like the fact that the instructions and feedback are translated as well. On the other hand, the voices are a bit too computerized. You don’t want your bilingual child to sound like a Spanish robot.
This app combines best bits of the previous two apps. It’s interactive, plus the native speaker speaks clearly and naturally. I prefer this app because of the repetition. The game is very easy and allows the child to hear the vocabulary again and again.
Why such low ratings? Well, unfortunately even with the best intentions I don’t think that any of these apps are, or could be an equivalent of a parent who speaks a different language. Children must listen to and imitate a foreign language for hours and hours over a number of years to become bilingual, so these apps just aren’t enough.
What you could do is sign your child up for an intensive course, or send your child to a bilingual school. More drastic steps, yes, but nobody ever said that fluency was easy.
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