The benefits of speaking with your children
I would encourage all parents to raise their children bilingual, or even trilingual, if they have the opportunity and the resources. Research has shown that multilingualism has positive cognitive, educational, professional and social benefits for children and adults. (See the following article below for more information.)
If done properly, speaking with your children in English can accomplish three very important objectives.
- It makes speaking English “normal”: Children often have trouble seeing the value of learning English. If their parents don’t speak or study English, then they question whether it really is important to learn it. However, when their parents speak with them in English, the importance is confirmed, and children will see speaking English as something “normal;” it creates a coherency that will help children to be more enthusiastic about English.
- It makes children less likely to reject English: children are less likely to reject English or view it as “work” or “study” if their parents speak it with them daily; English becomes part of the day-to-day routine, instead of something that is being forced on them.
- It accelerates learning by increasing input: non-native English input from parents can expose children to A LOT of English in a “natural” way very early on, which gives children an advantage when they start studying English formally in school and/or academies.
Finally, learning English “naturally” in this way can be fun for the whole family, and can also help the parents to improve their English. 😉
Some parents might be concerned that their English is not perfect (with respect to accent and grammatical accuracy); but grammatical errors are normal, even when children are exposed to “perfect” native English. I have barely uttered a grammatically-incorrect sentence to my son in the 18 years that I have been speaking English to him, but he still makes grammatical mistakes when writing and speaking; this will be corrected and improved over time.
Remember, also, that there are more non-native English speakers in the world than there are native speakers, so most of the world is speaking “non-native” English anyway; your children don’t have to be perfect, they just need to gain fluency, confidence and a desire to speak English. Once your child is in a native environment, he or she will be able to continue to improve the “imperfections” in their English.
Conclusions and a caveat
The benefits that children gain by receiving English input from their non-native parents far outweigh any possible drawbacks (such as developing a “non-native accent” or imperfect grammar); so, I highly recommend it. However, there is one very important caveat. If your children don’t feel comfortable speaking English with you, or just don’t enjoy it, please do not insist; it could backfire if you do. There is time to learn English later; but if you create a negative experience with English for your children when they are young, it could keep them from enthusiastically embracing English later in life. Have fun and don’t force it!