Why Should My Child Learn a Second Language?

by multilingualmania on March 30, 2010

in bilingual parenting, Bilingualism

Why should my child learn a second language?  Can growing up in a bilingual home actually yield long term benefits?  Is multilingualism right for my family?  If these questions sound familiar, you are not alone.  Plenty of parents puzzle over whether or not to introduce a second or third language into the household mix.  A little research quickly reveals the endless advantages associated with raising your child to be bilingual:  rewards that he or she will continue to reap well into multilingual adulthood.  Follow along to learn more about why your child should say “¡Sí!” to a second language.

The best time to learn a new language is before the age of ten

Young brains are specially equipped to process and understand new languages.  Within six months a baby is able to discern between different languages while learning how to listen to and repeat various sounds.  In fact, some research suggests that babies begin adapting to two or more languages while in the womb.  This research supplements the contemporary understanding that it is never too early to learn a second language.  Moreover, children who start off as bilingual babies and toddlers are also more likely to master native-like pronunciation.

Learning a second language enhances a child’s mastery of her native tongue

Bilingual children consistently exhibit high levels of metalinguistic awareness:  the ability to process and analyze language codes.  Monolingual children often struggle to grasp the symbolic function of language, while multilingual children instinctively objectify and compare different dialects .  A child’s capacity for understanding language as an abstract system will increase her reading aptitude and overall communication skills in any tongue, including her native one.

Being bilingual improves academic performance and problem solving skills

In addition to higher metalinguistic awareness, bilingual children also exhibit other types of enhanced cognitive function.  A high aptitude for flexible and creative thinking is shown to strengthen a bilingual child’s problem solving abilities and literacy skills.  This often translates into higher grades and overall scholastic success.

Multilingual children score higher on standardized tests like the SAT

Studies show that steady bilingual education can improve a child’s test scores as early as in the third grade.  Research on bilingual education techniques consistently confirms that children who are exposed to at least four years of consistent language study routinely outperform monolingual students in standardized testing situations.  This is especially true of the SAT; students who pursue a rigorous foreign language curriculum in high school typically score higher than other students on the college admissions exam.

Bilingualism will open doors for your child for the rest of his life

Foreign language study is linked to higher rates of college attendance and overall collegiate performance.  Adding multilingual skills to a resume also helps to give job seekers the competitive edge in the expanding global economy.  Bilingual employees often earn higher wages than their monolingual colleagues.  And in addition to collegiate and career success, bilingualism will hone your child’s sensitivity to different cultures, expand his travel opportunities, and broaden his social horizons.

About the Author: R.K. Albers is a freelance writer and translator living in Mexico, where she serves as a volunteer English teacher, computer instructor, and web designer for several social and environmental justice non-profit organizations. In her spare time, she loves to sustain and improve her bilingualism by reading novels and watching movies in Spanish.

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{ 4 comments… read them below or add one }

Beth Butler March 31, 2010 at 6:21 am

Terrific summary of why children should be introduced to more than just one language during the early years. Thank you for sharing such an open minded point of view and great studies conducting on the topic.

multilingualmania April 1, 2010 at 10:40 pm

Thank you very much for your comment! Your site has some great resources, as well!

tetsu April 4, 2010 at 3:22 am

I agree 100% with everything you said. And as Beth said, great summary of all the points in such concise form.

I agree with everything you said, not because I theoretically “think” it will work, but because I by experience “know” that it works.

I’ve also recently began a blog to document how I learned to speak many languages fluently, but other than my own tricks and thoughts, a significant part of my blog is about how my parents created a highly optimized environment for me to learn many languages at once.

Again, congratulations on this wonderful site. I got your RSS. Will keep in touch.

multilingualmania April 4, 2010 at 8:12 am

Thank you for your comment, and we look forward to hearing more from you!!

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