Being bilingual is a huge source of personal pride—something nobody can take away from you.
Are you a parent in search of practical ways to raise a bilingual kid?
Or are you a language learner wanting to be bilingual yourself?
Well hello there, brave soul!
These aren’t necessarily the easiest things to do. Fret not, because I’ll send some awesome websites your way to make the bilingual journey more exciting and more insightful than ever.
But before that, let’s talk briefly about the benefits of being bilingual. Whether you’re a parent immersing your kids in another language or a language learner putting in the extra hours, you’ll know that every effort is worth it.
The Benefits of Being Bilingual
Bilingualism Opens Doors
Being bilingual bridges you (or your kids) to a whole different world, a whole different culture, where you learn things you would otherwise not have learned, and where you gain experiences you would never have dreamed of as a monolingual.
Go online and experience the difference at the speed of light.
Let’s say you learn to speak another language, French. Suddenly all those French sites, blogs and forums, with all their unique content, become available for your consumption. You can interact with more netizens, write more comments, LOL at more jokes, read more e-books, stream more movies and listen to more quirky podcasts than somebody who only speaks one language. They also make great learning materials, and FluentU has taken these entertaining movies and videos to make personalized langauge lessons.
Bilingualism Boosts Your Career
There’s also a benefit, careerwise, to speaking one more tongue than the guy in the next cubicle. Your career will have a leg up. Being bilingual can open doors, as a person who speaks an extra language can deal with more customers, be sent to more places to represent their organization and can look at problem situations from multiple angles. A bilingual employee is undoubtedly an asset and often becomes more valuable than someone who can write a memo in only one language.
We are living in an increasingly small world where we shake hands and make deals across our geographical boundaries. English can definitely take you everywhere because it’s the business world’s lingua franca, but there are certain doors that can only be cracked open by bilinguals. A simple “hello” in an associate’s native tongue can brighten faces and build relationships.
Speaking the same language creates an instant connection, a warmth that enriches interactions and brings goodwill that may very well result in inking a deal.
And that’s just for things we can see! Being bilingual also does something to our brains.
Bilingualism Opens Your Mind
Each language is an altogether different set of vocabularies, syntaxes, grammatical regimens and idiomatic expressions. Having the ability to speak in another language means your brain is used to working extra hard not to get these languages mixed up. The ability to switch from one linguistic imperative to another (and then back) is really no mean mental feat. It requires selectively using one set of rules while actively ignoring and inhibiting the others.
If you take an MRI of a bilingual brain and compare it to a monolingual one, the bilingual brain will show a more developed dorsolateral prefrontal cortex (DLPFC) and anterior cingulate cortex (ACC)—structures in the brain related to switching languages.
Studies have shown that bilinguals have better memory and attention spans, and they also display enhanced problem-solving and creative skills, compared to people who speak one language. One of the tasks most often used to gauge the ability to focus and sort things out is the Stroop Task.
In this experiment task, a test subject is shown the text for the different colors like “PINK,” “BLUE,” “PURPLE” or “ORANGE.” The catch is that these words are presented in fonts of different colors. So for example, the word “PINK” will be in a green font and “BLUE” will be in orange. Subjects are asked to quickly identify the color of the font. Reaction times and accuracy are measured and bilinguals have been proven to consistently do better.
In addition to improved cognitive abilities, being bilingual is shown to protect the brain from degenerative diseases like Alzheimer’s. The lifelong mental “cardio” involved in speaking two languages delays the onset of the disease by four years. It seems that bilinguals can better withstand age-related brain atrophy.
If connecting with a potential friend on the other side of the world isn’t enough to motivate you to learn a second language, how does having four extra years of knowing where you left your trusty eyeglasses sound?
That said, let’s now look at some of the sites that are a godsend for those interested in being a bilingual or trying to raise one.
7 Bilingual Websites for the Language Learner’s Soul
1. Life As A Bilingual (from Psychology Today)
Psychology Today is a magazine published once every two months to bring the latest psychological research findings to the general public. Its online component houses a family of blogs run by a veritable panel of experts that write on a wide range of issues from politics to stress management.
One of the blogs, Life As A Bilingual, is home to the parent or solo-learner who wants to read more deeply on the different issues and facets of bilingualism. The blog is run by a pair of field experts:
- Dr. François Grosjean Ph.D., professor emeritus of psycholinguistics in the University of Neuchâtel in Switzerland and author of “Bilingual: Life and Reality.”
- Dr. Aneta Pavlenko Ph.D., professor of applied linguistics at Temple University and author of “The Bilingual Mind.”
Here you can read articles like, “How Bilinguals Deal With Moral Dilemmas,” which talks about how language affects our moral decisions, and “Bilingual Minds, Bilingual Bodies,” which asks the intriguing question: Do we smile and frown differently in a second language? (Want to know the answer? Read the post.)
2. Bilingual Monkeys
Parents trying to raise bilingual children will go bananas over this resource-rich site. It’s run by Adam Beck, author of the book “Maximize Your Child’s Bilingual Ability.” Beck is a 20-year veteran in the field of education and himself a parent of two bilingual kids.
In addition to penning the scores of articles found on the site, he sends out a weekly newsletter that’s chock-full of fresh ideas for parenting bilinguals. Get his newsletter every Sunday and feel inspired and energized for the week ahead.
Adam also hosts The Bilingual Zoo, a lively forum where parents keep each other updated on their bilingual teaching efforts, exchanging stories of what works and what doesn’t, celebrating little triumphs on a daily basis and asking questions. There are so many insider tips to be had in the forum that even personal language learners who don’t plan on having any kids soon can get wonderful information from people who are in the language learning trenches.
To quickly explore the site, check out their greatest hits. Read this post that lists the most-read articles of 2016.
3. Multilingual Living
This story is as old as time. Mommy searches for online support and resources in raising bilingual children. Mommy found little. Undeterred, mommy started her own website to deal with the problem. Her website now helps parents have the necessary tools, advice and support in raising bilinguals.
This mother is Corey Heller, and the year was 2003. And the website used to be known as “Bilingual/Bicultural Family Network.”
Corey then started to give lectures and sent out monthly newsletters. These newsletters quickly evolved into a magazine and became Multilingual Living Magazine. The magazine may have ceased publication in 2009, but, as the site boasts, if you want to read “everything there is to know about raising children in more than one language, then get your hands on Multilingual Living Magazine today.” And guess what, all the magazine’s previous issues can now be accessed for free!
Adult language learners won’t be left out on this site. For example, take a gander at this post, “The Joy of Swearing in a Non-Native Language.”
4. Growing Up Bilingual
You could be thinking at this point that the sites offered here are all hardcore, language-learning, bilingual-teaching machines. This one will flush the thought out of your system.
Growing Up Bilingual isn’t just a “bilingual” site. It’s also a “growing up” thing. It’s one family’s record of their experiences—some related to being bilingual, others related to food, technology, travel and arts & crafts. So you may meet posts that are language learning head-scratchers, like “Tips For Making Weekend Road Trips Unforgettable.”
You might be thinking: Now how is that related to learning a new language?
I enjoin you to peel beneath the skin of the post, because they’re actually going to prove just how cool the bilingual life, in general, is. And isn’t that what we want? An enriched life?
Whether you’re a parent teaching your precocious little ones about different languages and cultures or you’re a language learner yourself, you want an enriched, more eventful existence. And that’s exactly what a second language brings—a whole new way of looking at and experiencing things.
Check out the site. It’ll give you more than you originally bargained for.
5. Language Lizard
The site is originally intended for families who raise kids in multicultural environments and educators who run multicultural classrooms. There's a huge collection of bilingual learning materials for children available for sale on this site.
But Language Lizard is more than the ideal online shop for language learners. It’s got a great blog, too!
As soon as you arrive on the site, you might be wondering, “what’s this thing called ‘the One-Person-One Language Approach’ to raising bilingual children? Should I use it in my case?”
Many posts in the blog are actually sourced from the most common queries sent in by parents over the years, so explore the pages of this site and you might just find something about some question percolating in your head.
In addition, parents actively seeking ways to support their bilingual child will find the site’s reviews of bilingual titles to be of great value. Language Lizard features books on bilingualism that parents can read, and also colorful bilingual books for the kids themselves to get immersed in.
There’s also a parade of resources, classroom lesson plans and activities in store for language teachers who want to create a culturally diverse classroom experience. With the materials and inspiration provided here, your students will be able to deeply appreciate just how different yet similar people are.
The Language Lizard blog, although not directly dedicated to the adult language learner, actually has plenty in store for those who want to scratch something off their own bucket list. You can use everything on the site as if it were originally intended for you. You just have to approach it in a specific way.
Here’s the secret for doing this: You have to think of yourself as the kid whose parents or teachers are intent on immersing in another language.
Then you become the very bulls-eye for the resources, tips and techniques mentioned here. So if a post gives recommendations on bilingual books to give the kids, consider getting the books for yourself. If some activities are mentioned, ask yourself how this would be beneficial for you.
For all intents and purposes, adult language learners are really like kids in whatever language they’re starting to learn. You’ll commit all the mistakes and misunderstandings that native speakers go through when first starting out. So it’s really not that far out, thinking of yourself as a kid. Yes, you may have that fresh stubble growing on your face since this morning, but when you’re just starting out with a language, age doesn’t make any difference.
6. Colorin Colorado
This one is a well-heeled site getting support from agencies like the National Education Association (NEA) and the American Federation of Teachers. It’s especially dedicated to supporting parents and educators of the English language—although the tips, tricks and tools gleaned here can be creatively transposed into another language situation.
Colorin Colorado’s gems are the video resources that show actual footage of how the techniques are applied in a classroom. You’ll get to peek at how the research looks in real-world classroom situations. Witness how the kids are engaged in the topics, and see how the teacher-student interactions unfold.
For a parent, this is very important because you can actually learn a lot from seeing how the professionals do it. You can make your home as lively and as interesting as the videos show. As an adult language learner, the videos give you both the perspective of a student and a teacher so you can pick up some important practical wisdom as you teach yourself the language.
7. Multilingual Mania
This blog hasn’t been updated in a while, but it still made our list because of the righteous work it has done in the past, and we don’t want to let all that good content go to waste, do we?
In addition to practical posts that help language learners and parents alike, there are plenty of personal stories that are both engaging and insightful. The writing is often breezy and warm. Personal stories like “Hooked On Bilingualism” and “Am I A Language Traitor?” make the linguistic journey visceral and approachable.
Multilingual Mania also has the “Parent to Parent” series where each week they interview and feature parents who are raising kids to be bilingual. They let out their challenges, frustrations and successes, and they often reveal best practices and personal inspiration for both parents and learners.
Run to these seven bilingual websites when you need a boost.
I’ve purposefully given you a wonderful mix of resources that are especially helpful to learners, parents and teachers.
So whatever your bilingual situation may be, you can be sure that there’s wisdom to be had from similarly situated folks, academic and field experts to lead your way to bilingual fluency.
And One More Thing...
If you dig the idea of learning on your own time from the comfort of your smart device with real-life authentic language content, you'll love using FluentU.
With FluentU, you'll learn real languages—as they're spoken by native speakers. FluentU has a wide variety of videos as you can see here:
FluentU has interactive captions that let you tap on any word to see an image, definition, audio and useful examples. Now native language content is within reach with interactive transcripts.
Didn't catch something? Go back and listen again. Missed a word? Hover your mouse over the subtitles to instantly view definitions.
You can learn all the vocabulary in any video with FluentU's "learn mode." Swipe left or right to see more examples for the word you’re learning.
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