Language learning opens up the world through a greater understanding of other cultures. In the short term, it teaches your child about cultural diversity (look how they do things over there!) which encourages understanding and appreciation of difference. In the long term, it will enable your child to interact with a wider range of people and texts, and open more doors.
Language study is good for a child’s mind and their academic performance. A study conducted by researchers at Cornell University suggests ”cognitive advantages follow from being bilingual”, such as the ability to overcome distraction in order to achieve tasks. Such advantages can contribute to a child’s future academic success.
Learning a second language also enables greater understanding of our own language. English wasn’t created in a bubble. In fact, it bears striking similarities with a number of other European languages, in structure and origin. Often we don’t fully appreciate English grammar until we’ve been a student of the grammar of another language. If your child goes on to study humanities, tourism, health sciences (including medicine and nursing) or IT, these studies would be complemented by a certain level of fluency in a second language.
So how do you incorporate language studies into your child’s life?
If your child has a grandparent, friend or neighbour who is fluent in another language, let your child spend a lot time with that person. Language is best learned through immersion and every day exposure. And what Nonno wouldn’t want his grandchild learning to speak in his mother tongue?
Expose your child to books, CDs, music and movies in the second language. Incorporate basic vocabulary into your play, your meals and your outings. Make it fun!
Schools vary in their language instruction. Shop around your local area to find out who teaches languages, and for what age group. Alternatively, hunt around for a language school just as you might seek out a music teacher.
Encourage your child’s interest in other languages. Even by showing interest in other cultures and through visiting cultural events and celebrations, you are teaching your child the importance of cultural diversity. Join a Chinese New Year celebration and watch a Chinese Lion Dance. Participate in the colourful Hindu Holi festival in Spring. Get out in the world together with open eyes and minds.
Bonne chance!
Did you pay attention in French? Spanish? German?