As parents, we want to offer our kids every advantage for a happy, healthy and successful life. Many think this means ensuring our children do well in math and science and doing better in school overall. But did you know that learning a second language like English or French also offers many unique rewards? Here are some reasons to raise your kids bilingual.

A better, bigger brain. Research shows learning a second language actually changes the size and structure of our brains. Speaking two or more languages is like mental exercise that trains the brain, leading to improved attention, memory skills, problem-solving abilities and multi-tasking.

Greater empathy. Bilingual people also have better social skills, allowing them to be more empathetic towards others and read them better. Experts think this is because bilingual people are better able to block out their feelings and ideas, allowing them to focus on those of others more easily and accurately.

Protection against illness. Your kids will have plenty of reasons to thank you for encouraging them to be bilingual when they get older. Studies show that being bilingual can delay the onset of dementia, including Alzheimer's disease, for an average of five years. Bilingualism can also protect against brain injury — bilingual stroke survivors are twice more likely to experience cognitive recovery than monolingual people.

Practical benefits. Learning two languages when started early follows your kids in every sphere of their lives. Whether it's getting a good job, travelling to exciting destinations, experiencing more connections to different cultures and people, or contributing to diverse communities, a second language offers enrichment for a lifetime.

Since English and French are Canada's official languages, why not start with those? And because our official languages belong to everyone, the Office of the Commissioner of Official Languages is holding public consultations and invites you to share your ideas online at officiallanguages.gc.ca.

 

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