Education prepares the children in such a way that they become capable of taking on the responsibilities of their adult life with confidence. Language is the backbone of the education system. Without a proper means of communication, the education system is futile. In schools, children are exposed to different languages other than their own mother-tongue. Such a procedure makes them bilingual or multilingual. Now, let us understand what exactly is multilingualism and bilingualism.
What is multilingualism?
Multilingualism refers to the act of using multiple languages or promoting the use of the same by an individual or a community. In simple terms, a multilingual person is someone who knows many languages. Similarly, a bilingual person is someone who is acquainted with two languages. Multilingualism has a dynamic nature and bilingualism is a subset of multilingualism. Benefits of raising a bilingual child have a number of advantages,
- Learning new languages can increase job opportunities.
- It can keep the learning process active and lessen the chances of lagging cognitive capacity as one grows old.
- It lubricates communication.
- It creates a scope for learning new cultures and changes one’s perspective about life.
Proficiency in more than one language in children can help them a lot in the future. Learning starts from home and the first language they learn is their mother-tongue. If they are born to parents belonging to different cultures say, a Punjabi father and a South Indian mother then they can learn two different languages from their home itself. When they join their schools, the instructions are given in the local language which may or may not differ from their mother-tongue, and generally, English is introduced as their second language. As they go through different grades, they are introduced to further new languages which form their third language. Therefore, we can conclude that multilingualism exists in our education system.
Introducing children to English which is a globally accepted language is attempted from the initial grades. To learn, read and write English they need to properly translate their own mother-tongue into the same. This transition from the first language to English can be very confusing for kids initially.
Difficulties faced by children to be multilingual kids are:
- One of the problems faced by children is that lack of understanding can lead to a weak foundation of that language. If the foundation of the language is not strong from an early age then the child will have difficulty in speaking or writing error-free fluent English in the future.
- They will also have a tendency of mixing up the languages while speaking. This will give him or her a disadvantage in their career.
- Being weak in English will develop a sense of under-confidence in them as English is the most demanded language and is becoming one of the major languages for communication in India.
Fortunately, the New Education Policy 2020 has taken into account the significance of bilingual child development in building a perfect education system. It has emphasized on mother-tongue or local language as the medium of instruction till class 5 and preferably till class 8. The decision was taken, keeping in mind to prevent the imposition of any language on the kid. By implementing such a rule, NEP has considerably reduced the burden on children. If the instructions are in regional or local languages then the kid will have a better understanding of the subject. They will show more interest than usual and will make fewer mistakes. They will be more inclined towards their mother-tongue and their culture. On the contrary, this new rule implemented by NEP has some concerning issues as well.
- Instructions in the regional or local language can affect the child’s scope of learning English. There is a possibility of developing a weak base in English which can hamper the future of the child as having the knowledge of English is almost every job’s requirement.
- Getting your kids to join a new school in a different place can be a bit problematic as all the instructions will be provided in the local language of that area and so, children will have difficulty in coping up with their studies due to lack of understanding.
These are some of the probable problems that can be faced by the children and their parents.
The only ones who can truly help a child are his or her parents. Parents must understand the needs and lacunae of children so that they can help them out to cope with multilingualism.
Some of the ways that can be useful to deal with this problem are as follows:
Try to find out the weak areas
The first and foremost task of the parent is to understand the areas where their children are falling behind. There can be various areas such as sentence forming, tenses, or grammar.
Work on improving the weak areas
Tenses and grammar can be improved through practice. While sentence formation has a lot to do with translation. When a child is presented with a question in English, the first thing he or she does is form an answer in his or her mother-tongue and then translate it to English. If the child is not clear in the mother-tongue itself then a translation can be difficult. So, parents can help their kids to translate the sentences in a proper manner so that the kids can understand the errors in translation.
Find out creative ways of learning
Children learn better if the learning method is fun. The best way to help children to learn multiple languages without much confusion is through intellectual games. Parents can think of various games that can help their children such as pictorial games, cross-words, name-a-thing, translation games, etc. Children will pay more attention if they learn through games rather than textbooks.
Natural conversation can help children to learn more effectively. All you have to do is converse with them in the language they are finding difficult. It is as natural as learning their own mother-tongue. This will improve their command of the language and give them a sense of confidence which they usually carry while speaking their mother-tongue.