Travel with bilingual kids has so many benefits, even though it’s not always easy.
“Mummy, everyone speaks English here” was one of the first things my son mentioned when we stepped of the plane arriving in Melbourne. The last time we visited he was only two; now almost four he was able to notice the change. We live in Italy you see, and the only person my children hear speaking English is me, apart from the occasional Skype calls home with family.
We try to visit Australia every year or two. It is a long trip from Italy, a full day in fact with a few hours stopover on the way. With two little ones it is not easy, but we know the trip is worth it for many reasons.
1. Immerse Them in a Language
When your children are immersed day in and day out in the community language where they live, the minority language is usually lacking exposure. Travel with bilingual kids to countries where the minority language is spoken gives your children exposure to the language in a natural environment.
I am the only person who speaks English with my children. They are constantly surrounded by Italian. When we visit Australia, it gives my kids the chance to hear English spoken by other people. To be exposed to different ways of talking, different tones, and different vocabulary is one huge benefit of travel with bilingual kids.
I have noticed also that at home in Italy my children tend to speak Italian to each other. However, when we travel to Australia they speak a little more English with each other. Bilingual siblings usually speak the language they are most surrounded by, despite encouragement to speak in the minority language.
2. Travel with Bilingual Kids Builds a Family Connection
If you have family who live afar, travelling is a great opportunity to spend time with them. Of course, with all the technology these days it is easy to keep in touch by phone or video call. However, it is not the same as seeing family in person. After all, human interaction is a big part of the language learning process. What better reason for travel with bilingual kids is there than bonding with family members, whilst improving your child’s language skills?
3. Gain Cultural Experiences
It’s not just language skills that benefit when you travel with bilingual kids. When you travel to a country you immerse your children in a different culture too. Kids taste different foods, listen to typical music, see how other cultures dress. Furthermore, celebrating different festivities is a great opportunity for children to really get a feel of a country.
4. Make New Friends
While travelling, children can not only see and experience different things from their day to day lives, but also meet and spend time with different people. Social skills are important, and if children are able to make friends in more than one language, it is a great benefit.
I always try to catch up with friends when we travel, especially those with children. My children then get the chance to interact with other children who speak English. I often take my kids to the local play centre where they can meet new children and socialise. It is great to see them interacting with other children their age in their minority language. This isn’t the norm for them when we are in Italy; they don’t usually meet English speaking children. It is great to then catch up with their new friends via video call once we are back in Italy.
5. Learn a New Language
Apart from travelling to countries where your minority language is spoken, you could travel to new places with your children and introduce them to a new language. This can be even more rewarding as it is new for the whole family. By immersing yourselves in a language and culture your children will experience a whole new way of life. They will pick up words and phrases from a new language. Even if your children never become fluent, learning a language is never wasted.
Travelling with bilingual kids may not be the easiest thing in the world, but it is worth it. Children get so much out of seeing and experiencing new places. Bilingual kids can not only improve their language skills abroad, but can also learn about their own family heritage, other cultures, and the world around them.
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