Multilingual Education- MLE typically refers to “first-language-first” education which begins in the mother tongue and transitions to additional languages. Research shows that children whose early education is in their mother tongue tend to do better educationally in later years. (Thomas and Collier, 1997).
There are increasing calls to provide first-language-first education to immigrant children. That is those from immigrant parents who have moved to the developed world. MLE programs include a guided transition from learning through the mother tongue to learning through another tongue. When children learn in their mother tongue first, it validates their cultural or ethnic identity and underscores the importance of their worldview. So what then is the importance of multilingual education for international students?
Linguistic and Cultural Tolerance
In an increasingly globalized world, being able to speak more than one language is extremely helpful. In fact, it’s been estimated that over half of the world’s population is bilingual or multilingual. It is worthy of note that multilingualism preserves cultural diversity, respect and tolerance for different cultures and nationalities. When you learn in other languages, it gives you a better appreciation of the culture and its people. This fosters harmony and peaceful coexistence.
A bilingual/multilingual brain is a more powerful brain
Studies in language development provide an interesting discovery. It shows that when children have more exposure to all languages at an early age, it gives them a distinct academic advantage throughout life. They also benefit from a dual language curriculum. Some other studies reveal that the ageing of the brain is slower and the employment rate is higher in adults with bilingual capabilities.
Communicating effectively in multiple languages makes students very intelligent and creative. This is because it requires you to use your brain in an analogous way as when you form creative thoughts. A study found that bilinguals are more creative than monolinguals. This is according to the Torrance Tests of Creative Thinking (TTCT), which assesses fluency, flexibility, originality, and elaboration.
Multilingualism also improves your analytical skills because you have the ability to process information in a more logical fashion. It exercises your brain muscles and strengthens your ability to focus, memorize, and comprehend materials.
The workplace today is a global space which needs people with the ability to communicate with people from a range of cultural backgrounds. This is one of the things that makes international students stand out quickly and easily. It places them well ahead of their competitors and could potentially lead to career development and raises.
Furthermore, there are certain career fields which absolutely require multilinguals such as interpreters or translators. There are also foreign language tests for individuals who are seeking career advancement opportunities in government fields.
One of the importance of multilingual education for international students is that it develops global relationships. Multilinguals can communicate with and build relationships with people across the globe as language barriers are broken. Global relationships are imperative for global awareness and global thinking. When you learn other languages, your worldview changes for the better and you become globally relevant.