Bilingual Child Month

Ashley Zhao, Campus Focus Editor

Many AHS students, like myself, are bilingual: someone who fluently speaks two languages, or has at least some experience with another language. Whether it be Spanish, Mandarin, Hindi, or Russian, most bilinguals grew up learning their first language, or “mother tongue”, in households and other recurring places in their lives, while acquiring their second in more formal settings. But despite the multicultural background that many of these children have, the environments they grow up in often forces them to assimilate and leave behind the culture and language that made up a large part of their identities.

The month of October celebrates Bilingual Child Month, which was founded in 2006 by Language Lizard. The observance aims to support children who are learning more than two languages, as well as their parents and teachers, by teaching “all students to appreciate and understand the diversity in our communities,” stated Language Lizard

The small business offers dual-language books and classroom activities in English and over 50 other languages, with both popular and uncommonly spoken languages. This year, its focus is to highlight its “Celebrate Diversity Sets”, which provide teachers and parents with a set of bilingual books, lesson plans, and a teacher resource guide “they need to celebrate diversity in the classroom and at home.”

Initiatives like those of Language Lizard have played a definite role in promoting bilingualism. In 1980, the percentage of bilinguals in the U.S. was just 10.68%. But 38 years later, this number has more than doubled and continues to grow as new immigrants arrive and families pass down their languages from generation to generation. Other languages, Native American languages and that of American Sign language, have also been growing in popularity as time passes.

Although some argue that a greater number of bilinguals is taking away from the number of English speakers, English is considered so important in the U.S. that around 78.4% of citizens know and practice it in their everyday lives, according to the 2019 American Community Survey.

Professor of psycholinguistics at Neuchâtel University, François Grosjean, Ph.D., stated that he is “happy to observe, more than 30 years later, that an effort is being made to speak and use other languages in addition to English.” Since the prominence of English is under no threat, the rising popularity of other languages “can only lead to [one’s] personal enrichment, increased ties between generations and cultures, and more diversity in job opportunities.”

As of today, cultural diversity is of greater importance than ever before. No matter the language or culture, take the time to share and celebrate Bilingual Child Month with those close to you. Whether you choose to share traditional food and clothing or sit down with someone to talk about your individual experiences, make October a special time to highlight all that’s wonderful about bilingualism and multiculturalism.