From the Mommy Files…

Milas Ellinika? Parli Italiano? Parlez-vouz Francais?

Posted on: April 6, 2011

Are you saying, huh?

I’m asking if you speak Greek, Italian or French, in the respective languages.


Because there are so many benefits to teaching our children a foreign language.

Be it the language of your forefathers or something that sounds interesting, just do it.

Learn another language!

There are benefits for little ones as well as adults!

For years, there was a school of thought that purported that teaching a child another language was confusing to the child, and that the child had a smaller vocabulary.


Studies upon studies have proved otherwise.

Kids actually have DOUBLE the vocabulary.

They also have the greatest capacity to learn when they are young. And they learn faster.

I’m the Associate Editor of The Greek Star newspaper in Chicago.

Last week, we published an issue dedicated to Greek-American Education.

In this effort, we highlighted topics within Greek-American Education, but mostly importantly, we shared a lot of information regarding the benefits of bilingual education.

An article by Eleni Kanellopoulou-Ntrivalas, M. Ed, Principal of Solon Bilingual Prep in Chicago, called “The Bilingual Preschool: Building the Foundation for Success,” highlighted why preschool is a good place to start.

She said that in her experience, “the greater percentages of children that attend a bilingual preschool have succeeded in gaining acceptance to public school gifted programs.”

“We believe this is attributed to a combination of the bilingual curriculum and the smaller class size,” she added.

She sighted the book, In Other Words: The Science and Psychology of Second-Language Acquisition, by Kenji Hakuta and Ellen Bialystok.

Here, the authors state that “the knowledge of two languages is greater than the sum of its parts.”

They write that the benefits from being bilingual go much further than simply knowing two languages, as the structures and ideas of the two languages are so different, that it forces the child to think in more complicated ways than if they were learning only one language.

A study done by Ellen Bialystok and Michelle Martin showed that bilingual children have better inhibitory control for ignoring perceptual information. The theory is that children who are bilingual are constantly sorting out extra perceptual information.

Developmental Psychologist and Linguistics Expert Barbara Lust indicates that these are important findings because the ability to focus and pay attention is a key role in academic readiness and success at school.

It’s reported that children naturally acquire more than one language at once – and do so quicker if immersed in the languages.

There are also social benefits.

Bilinguals travel more, can communicate with more people.

They also tend to be more tolerant of other cultures.

Passing on the language of your forefathers brings another benefit.

It’s a wonderful way to pass on your heritage and culture.

And you should be proud of where you come from.

Dr. Angelyn K. Balodimas-Bartolomei, Associate Professor of Education at North Park University, Coordinator of the ESL Teachers Endorsement Program and founder of Academic Odyssey Program to Greece, also wrote about the importance of getting a bilingual education.

She states that bilingual schools  also “prepare children to become more productive, responsible, and contributing members of our changing global society.”

She also says bilinguals are “generally more outgoing and have an edge in high school, college and even in getting jobs.”

Her article also indicated that “Foreign language learning also allows children to improve grammatically and linguistically in their first language in addition to increasing vocabulary in both languages.”

On their website, The Lycee Francais Chicago also cites that its bilingual program nets academic success.

It’s not rocket science.

Pick a language, any language.

Build the foundation for your child’s academic success.

While you’re at it, learn another language yourself.

Learning a foreign language can help boost brain power and delay the onset of Alzheimer’s Disease.

Let’s keep those brains engaged – and healthy!

The time is now.

So…let me ask again…

Milas Ellinika? Parli Italiano? Parlez-vouz Francais?

If you’re child’s a teenager or if you’re a grandparent, it’s never too late.

Yeia sou!




More Resources on bilingual education

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