Many of the items that we interact with and use in our everyday lives come from all across the globe. As a result, today’s young people are very likely to work with non-native English speakers whether at home or in a foreign setting. Plus learning a second language can provide a multitude of new and exciting opportunities.
Here are three reasons to encourage your child to learn a new language, as well as ways you can help foster this growth:
1. The biological impact
Learning a foreign language helps to create new pathways in the brain. Children who learn more than one language from a young age are not just more likely to become fluent—they also experience slight shifts in the way their brain works to process information. Dr. Ping Li, a psycholinguist at Pennsylvania State University, describes the differences in neuroplasticity in the brains of multilingual people compared to their monolingual counterparts. To put it simply, a brain that has been accustomed to speaking more than one language is more active when using certain linguistic skills. Over time, this can help with memorization and learning other tasks.
2. The practical usage
Children today will grow up in a world with many employment opportunities outside the United States. While foreign languages often take a backseat to English in the American school system, encouraging your child to look into other language options can help him compete academically with the rest of the world. Starting a language early also takes off some of the pressure as children transition into high school, college, and beyond, where learning a language might be more difficult or time-consuming.
3. The social benefits
Knowing a foreign language can help children understand another culture. Young children base their actions on the people around them. The more exposure students get to different parts of the world through language, the more prepared they will be to eventually become global citizens. By learning a language at a young age, your child will have a platform to engage with others who have different thoughts and ideas. She can develop understanding and acceptance as a result.
While some students might already be interested in speaking another language, others will probably require a little bit of encouragement before they are sold on the idea. There are a few fun and easy ways that you can bring the idea up to your scholar and get her hooked.
For children of any age, the easiest way to encourage foreign language learning is by linking the concept to their own hobbies. A student who is interested in travel, for example, will be able to understand all of the ways that knowing another language could make traveling more fun. If you have a child who is hesitant about studying a foreign language, give her some autonomy over what language to learn. You might be surprised to see her take initiative and start studying a new language based on her own interests.
Samhitha Krishnan is a contributing writer for Varsity Tutors, a live learning platform that connects students with personalized instruction to accelerate academic achievement.