Wednesday, 19 March 2014

5 Reasons I'm Glad my Children (Already) Speak Dutch & English

This is the third post in this month's expat blog link up about Celebrating Expat Life. You can link up your post on any of the titles so far this month at the bottom of this post - and read posts from fabulous expat bloggers across the globe.

You can read my 5 things I love about my expat life or the 5 reasons I'm glad my children are both Dutch and British in earlier posts.

This week here are my 5 reasons I'm glad that my young children are bilingual and can speak both English and Dutch, albeit the latter better than the former.

1. Aside from all the Benefits of Being Bilingual?: The positive elements of being raised bilingually are widely documented and study after study shows that the benefits are multiple. Speaking more than one language means more brain connections are made and in short bilingual speakers are a little smarter than mono linguists. Speaking multiple languages improves the ability to multitask, as the brain is switching between at least two different language structures. Memory improves. It has also been shown that being bilingual keeps dementia and Alzheimers longer at bay (that's what I told myself when I kept calling a banana an umbrella last week). I think those in themselves are pretty convincing reasons to be glad my sons are bilingual but if you don't believe me, how about from the mouth of a multilingual child, courtesy of Rita Rosenback?

Photo Credit: Valeer Vandenbosch
2. Making Language Learning Easier for Them: By learning two languages from birth I believe that they won't have to work as hard as I did to be able to speak different languages. I learnt French and German in school, and a minuscule amount of Italian and I had to work hard to do so. For my three sons English will be one less subject to worry about in school by the time they start formally learning English. It will be second nature to them and I hope they will find English lessons easy. I also believe it will pave the way should they wish to learn other languages.

3. Native Speakers: My three sons are learning a second language without having to do it formally in school - they start earlier than their classmates and have a native speaker at home to talk to, as well as other family members in England. They will continue to learn English in a natural setting, instead of only in the formal setting of a classroom. It can only help them when I think in terms of accent, pronunciation and the amount of practice they get.

4. Communication: Seeing that my husband is Dutch and I am British it was always an important point for us that our children should be able to communicate effectively with both sides of the family. That meant that learning English was a must if they wanted to be able to talk to my family, who are absolutely not linguists, and certainly no Dutch speakers. Watching their English develop, and hence their ability to talk to my family in England, is priceless, considering most of their peers would, as yet, be unable to carry out a conversation in English. It certainly helps them build a relationship with my British relatives and friends.

Photo Credit:
5. It's a Small World: I love that they know from an early age that the world extends beyond the borders of the country they live in. They are familiar with many British things because they speak English. Language and culture is a package and they are well aware of a world outside of the Netherlands from a very early age.

On a final note: I am also hoping that my three sons will play an important part in the education of the next generation of English speaking Dutch people. They'll be able to correct those typical Dutch mistakes that all children seem to be taught in school, and maybe, just maybe, there will be around 90 other children making their way in the world with the correct pronunciation of iron, a better understanding of the difference between England and Great Britain and knowing that the words teach and learn are not interchangeable.

Expat Life with a Double Buggy


  1. I think no 2 is really important. And you are giving them a skill they may find invaluable for their jobs and their lives in general. They may even end up being able to speak four or five different languages fluently because of their upbringing. I find it truly amazing when I meet people who can easily and effortlessly switch between languages. I always wanted to be able to do that but as you say, learning a language at school is so different and very difficult to become fluent. Thank you once again for a wonderful post and a great blog link up!

  2. Really enjoy reading your blogs Amanda, I'm not an Expat yet but thinking about it as my Husband is Dutch.

  3. I have really enjoyed reading your posts on celebrating expat life. I think I will take the plunge and join up for the link up on the 26th :-)

  4. Really enjoyed reading this and totally agree with what you say about learning languages being a good way of learning about different cultures.