Why Children Should be Learning a Second Language


The benefits of learning a second language are numerous, especially when it comes to children. Speaking a language other than your native tongue not only allows children to communicate with a vast number of people, but it also affects their cognitive development positively, and this is something that can benefit them throughout their lives. Understanding the variety of benefits associated with learning a new language while a person is still young can make it apparent to parents that they might want to consider promoting this learning in their young, particularly if the benefits will see a child though to adulthood.

1. Enhanced Cognitive Performance

When it comes to learning a new language, some of the biggest benefits for children are those associated with cognitive performance. According to the experts, the process of learning a new language allows children to work on their memory skills, problem solving abilities and reading skills. What is more, this also allows individuals to improve their skills in subjects not necessarily related to the language, such as mathematics and science.

Children who speak a second or third language are usually able to perform better at school, and this is clear through their grades. Studies have shown that children who speak more than one language consistently have better grades in just about all subjects and these individuals often show improvements right up to the college level.

As many parents are aware, improvements in school grades allow children to enroll in better colleges; something that can ultimately give them a head start later on in life. Colleges can be quite selective about the applicants that they accept within their halls, so providing children with a better opportunity to gain acceptance could mean the difference between success and failure.

2. Enhanced Thinking Skills

It is not only cognitive abilities where children who speak a second language seem to outperform others; this has also been known to make children more open minded with regards to how they view the world.

Being able to think "outside of the box" is something that many professionals hold in high regard because this is related to more effective problem solving abilities. Those who speak more than one language do not simply develop this ability because of the processes that go into learning a new language; they also come into contact with a wider variety of individuals from different backgrounds. What is more, children who speak another language often have the ability to read in other languages, therefore exposing themselves to a wider range of literature.

3. Literacy Skills Enhanced

One of the side effects of learning a new language, according to a university in Canada, is that it actually gives children an edge when it comes time to learn how to read in that language. Children are often able to apply what they have learned in one language to others, and this is apparent as they go about learning to sound out new words that they read in books, newspapers and blogs, among other resources. As children practice learning to read in a variety of languages, they will inevitably increase the rate at which they read comfortably, allowing them to improve their overall abilities in this field.

4. Increase Their Confidence

Being able to speak more than one language is something that is held in high esteem by society, so children who can do this often benefit from an increase in confidence. As children progress through the various stages of learning the new language, they will accomplish certain goals, and with each one, they will experience this boost. As they become competent in speaking the language to others, they will very likely get praised for their abilities and this only makes the prospect that much more appealing.

What is more, children who can speak another language often find it easier to make friends within different cultural groups, and this can be a confidence booster in itself. It is well known that having a larger group of friends can help to raise a person's self esteem, and this is one of the ways that a child can accomplish that. Sometimes, it doesn't take much more than being able to speak the language of someone else to ensure that two children become friends for life.

5. Perfecting The Accent

Children are very good at mimicking the sounds that they hear, and so when it comes to repeating these words and phrases, they often end up sounding much more fluent than someone who learned the language as they got older. A recent study has found that adults who were once exposed to a language in their childhood could end up speaking just like a native, even if they didn't learn the language at a young age. While children are often capable of growing up to speak the language just like a native of that country, adults who learn a new language later on in life might never perfect this ability, even if their grammar is faultless.

6. Improve Your Prospects at University

Universities hold students who can speak a second language in high regard, and in instances where students are competing for a prominent spot within the institution of their choice, this might just give someone the edge that they are looking for. This doesn't just apply to some of the most esteemed universities throughout the country, but also some of the most selective courses that are offered by the institutions in question.

7. Better Job Prospects in Adulthood

A child that takes the time to learn a second language when they are young can actually use these skills to improve their job prospects when they get older. Globalization is making the world smaller and smaller, and this means that more and more companies are looking for employees that can communicate in two or three different languages. In some instances, an individual might be able to receive a promotion just because they can speak a second language, and in other instances, they could look forward to being relocated around the world because of their abilities.

In a competitive job market, even the slightest edge could end up giving someone a better chance of getting the position they are looking for. This is something parents can give to children by promoting that they learn to speak another language while they are still young.

8. Reflect on Their First Language

Learning a new language invariably leaves people thinking about the complexities of their own language. While many people don't give this much thought, those who choose to add another language to their set of skills will most likely find that it allows them to speak their own native language much more easily, because they consciously think about how to go about improving their abilities. Among other benefits, speaking a new language could end up allowing someone to add a wide variety of words to their expanding vocabulary.

9. Bringing The Family Together

Instead of simply allowing the children to learn something new, it might be a good idea for the parents to get involved too. Having the entire family get together to learn something new allows them to share this experience, to help each along and to revel in the goals that are achieved along the way. Family members can motivate each other to continue pushing ahead even when things get difficult, and this can yield some real results.

10. Traveling and Emigrating

Those who are looking to travel the world, or even to emigrate on a more permanent basis, might find that speaking the native tongue will help them to settle in a lot quicker. Travelers often find it easier to get around when they are able to communicate with the locals, and they might also find that they get better prices on goods just because they have this ability. When immigrating to a new country, individuals could find it easier to get a job, get accepted into a university or even make new friends because they can speak the local dialect, and this is one of the many reasons parents choose to promote the learning of a new language in their children.

11. Communicating More Effectively With Family

It is not only strangers that second language speakers can communicate with more effectively by learning another dialect. Often, people have family who can only speak their native tongue, and by learning their dialect, this can help them communicate more effectively with them, whether they visit regularly or only every now and again.

12. Conducting Research

Researchers often have to overcome the challenges associated with researching individuals who speak a language other than their own, and this can be overcome by simply learning the dialect. Knowing the language spoken by the research participants allows researchers to gain a much clearer picture of their realities, including their stories, beliefs and perceptions in that moment in time.

13. Missionaries

Missionaries often have to travel to locations where they don't speak the local language, and in order to communicate with others, they will either need to start learning, or hope that someone speaks their language. Children who are already familiar with the language won't have to go to these lengths and so they will find these trips a lot less daunting and possibly even a lot more effective.

14. Studying Abroad

Many students opt for "study abroad" programs that allow them to spend a semester far from home, although this is generally only possible if they are able to find an English or bilingual institution in which to enroll. Those who can speak another language, on the other hand, will have more variety about where they enroll because they won't have difficulty in communicating with potential friends and lecturers.

15. Helping Your Child Speak a Second Language

In order for children to benefit from speaking another language, parents often need to promote this learning in their kids. One way to do this is to have one parent speak another language to the child. This is especially useful if the parent is a second language speaker, and it allows the child to become familiar with the language from a young age. The younger a child is when they learn the language, the more easily they will be able to learn the accents and finer nuances of the language. Moreover, having a parent speak the language regularly with the child will ensure that the child learns the appropriate jargon for their age, which helps them speak the language more fluidly.

It is generally important for one parent to speak one language, such as English, while the other speaks the second language. This technique is particularly useful in those situations where the parents want the child to speak three languages, because it allows the child to speak one language within their community and the other two within their home.

Speaking every day is important because this allows children to get a lot of exposure to the language they are trying to learn. It might be a good idea to read books, sing songs and watch television in the other language, as this promotes the learning of the new dialect.

Foreign language schools are options available to parents who are looking to immerse their children in another language. This sort of option helps children learn a new language fairly quickly, and it also allows them to improve their reading and writing. Overall, this is one of the most appealing options for older children who are looking to learn a new language in a shorter amount of time.

It is important that children are constantly challenged to continue pushing their boundaries and learning more. In this day and age, learning one language simply isn't enough and those who are limited to communicating in this manner could end up being left out on more than one occasion. Children who have the ability to communicate more freely, not only in their own native tongue, but in the languages of other nations will find it easier communicate freely, allowing them to venture out of their comfort zones and experience the world in a completely new light.