Why should your child learn a foreign language when English is spoken, or at least partially understood, in many countries around the globe? Learning another language is never a waste of time, but the benefits go well beyond being able to ask for directions to the Gare du Nord in Paris, ordering pasta with confidence in a Roman trattoria or saying hello to a friendly face in Beijing.
When you're visiting another country, knowing the language — even the basics — makes traveling easier, safer and more fun, but there are more compelling reasons to expose your child to a world language at a young age. Here are five unexpected benefits of learning another language.
By learning a second language, your child will learn to respect and appreciate another culture. It’s not just about grammar, cadence and developing a native-speaker accent, it’s about life — customs, holidays and the way people live day-to-day in another country. Whether they're learning about Paris, Barcelona or Beijing, your child will become familiar with the dynamics of experiencing a culture firsthand.
Even if they’re not fluent, studying another language makes kids better communicators in general, verbally and, surprisingly enough, non-verbally. Kids who know a world language are better at understanding people’s meanings, picking up non-verbal cues and listening. One study even correlates the study of a foreign language to better online communication! The act of studying another language makes people more in tune with their own communication, verbal, non-verbal and virtual.
Improved mental agility and attention span
You’ll be surprised at how quickly mental agility and attention span improves when your child begins learning a new language. A study by the University of Edinburgh found that, after just one week of learning a new language, students had a spike in mental alertness regardless of their age. Your child’s short attention span? It's likely to improve when he or she is learning to speak another language.
A bigger brain!
Studies have shown babies exposed to a foreign language show different cognitive patterns than those who grow up with just one language. Children who regularly hear another language have more brain activity in “executive functions” like problem-solving and actually have more gray matter! In short, if you want to support early childhood development, expose your child to a world language.
Higher ACT scores
According to the Education Resources Information Center, students who study a foreign language consistently score higher in math and English on the ACT test than students who don’t study a foreign language. Hoping for an Ivy League future for your child? Get him or her into a foreign language now.
Learning another language is fun for kids and opens up the world for them in a whole new way. And now we know it's good for their brains, good for their attention spans and just might bump up that ACT score. C'est formidable!