The Benefits of Raising a Multilingual Child

The Benefits of Raising a Multilingual Child

My wife is Moroccan, I’m American and we live in Paris. The question of language always surrounds us. Should we speak in Arabic? English? French? When we were expecting our son, we knew this would be a question for him as well. As we sifted through Montessori-method books and mommy blogs, noting things like age-appropriate activities and stories, this was the question we kept coming back to: How would we speak to our baby boy?

In the end, we decided to speak our mother tongues — my wife speaks Tangier-dialect Arabic and I speak my West Coast American English. We were convinced that the benefits of having a baby listening to two languages at such an early age were too extraordinary to pass up and we didn’t want to miss out.

Here are just a few benefits you can expect from raising a multilingual child:

An Intelligent Child: Though a multilingual child might take a little longer to speak, she will have little trouble understanding what is being said and, once she is ready to enter school, she will understand there are multiple words for the same action or item (verb or noun) and, unlike her peers, language will not be a passive part of her environment, but a tool that she will have control over. In turn, even at a pre-verbal age, she will be figuring out complex ideas and puzzling through her physical surroundings, which expands her capacities for things like abstract thought.

Stronger Relationships: As parents, there is an emotional bond you can have with your child in your mother tongue that just isn’t quite there in a second language. In your mother tongue, you can sing the lullabies your mother sang to you and read the stories that you grew up reading. In this way, there is also a cultural legacy that you pass on to your child. And if you have family that is monolingual, this will make it easier for your child to connect with your extended family and have meaningful relationships with her grandmas, grandpas, aunts, uncles and cousins.

Financially Stable: Later in life, there will be more employment opportunities for your multilingual child, particularly as the world becomes a more globalized society and positions for multilinguals remain in high demand.

Today, our son turns eleven months old. He’s now beginning to understand language. He knows when I’m telling him “goodbye” or ask him to find my “watch,” and he understands his mom when she asks him to find his “krisha” (tummy) or his “hatouta” (peepee). Frankly, it’s amazing.

Because a child’s brain is geared at this age to absorb language, we’ve even enrolled him in French-speaking daycare. Our family motto: Trilingual is the new Bilingual. By the time he is four, he should be speaking Arabic, English and French!

Kids are sponges. Let them soak up as much as they can! The earlier you get them started, the better!

How to Assemble a Dossier in France

In France, it seems like you need a “dossier” for everything – rent an apartment, consult a physician or even to find a nanny. The dossier is a nightmare for most expats, utterly confusing, and one of the hallmarks of the oftentimes Kafkaesque bureaucracy that rules the country.

However, once you get the hang of it, assembling a dossier is not so bad. In fact, those with a little OCD find the experience of assembling a dossier somehow pleasurable – just ask my wife!

To make the dossier experience a little less headache-inducing, my wife and I keep a binder handy with all our original documents and copies of things that we think might be useful. Even after we assemble a dossier (after all, no two dossiers are the same, that would be too easy) we lug this binder with us the day we turn in our dossier. This way, if an extra copy of a passport or a bank statement is needed, we can pull it out of the binder and hand it over to the always pleasantly surprised clerk.

Below are some dossier basics you will be expected to have. We recommend that you keep at least 3 copies of each item.

  • Birth Certificates (w/ translation)
  • Marriage Certificate (w/ translation, if applicable)
  • Divorce Certificate (w/translation, if applicable)
  • Livret de Famille (if you are French or come from a country that has this)
  • Passport
  • Bank Statements for Last Three Months
  • Pay Slips for Last Three Months
  • Passport-style photos (3.5cm x 4.5cm, exactly)

If you're wondering whether or not translations are required, click here.

For Renting an Apartment, you should also come equipped with the following:

  • Employment Contract
  • Tax Filing from Previous Year
  • Last 3 quittances de loyer (a receipt of payment from last apartment, last 3)
  • Attestation de Travail (Work Certificate from your employer, within last month)
  • Attestation de Salaire (Salary Certificate from your employer, within last month)

Depending on your situation, you might be asked for a guarantor (cosigner) or a caution bancaire (bank guarantee). Most landlords will want a guarantor who lives in France and will be legally beholden to them. In that case, the guarantor will be asked to provide the basics for a dossier plus a handwritten letter (acte de cautionnement) that is their pledge to pay the rent should you somehow fail to. For the caution bancaire, you will need to visit your French bank and provide the paperwork given to you by the bank to the landlord. If you’re a student and your parents are paying your rent, you will need the information of the guarantor as well as a letter, in French, from your parents stating your allowance per month in Euros.

For Medical Dossiers, you’ll want to have whatever is applicable of the following:

  • Medical Summary
  • Medical History
  • Recent Prescriptions
  • Physician Reports
  • Discharge Reports
  • Reports from any Exams or Analyses

This list is not exhaustive. It seems that there are always more things to be added to the dossier with most of it being paperwork from one of the many specialized offices in France for a very particular situation. The rule of thumb is to keep the original of whatever paperwork you receive and three copies in a well-organized binder. Do this, and the nightmare of a dossier is suddenly a lot less stressful!

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