Language Stories

Today and tomorrow: Foreign language skills matter

Posted by Language Stars on Oct 10, 2017 8:53:53 PM

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No matter how much you believe in the importance of foreign-language education, there will always be naysayers. Common arguments include the idea that technology will communicate for us, making multilingualism obsolete. Others point to English being the world's language, so why should we worry about learning anything else? Others think foreign language is simply too complex for kids to learn.

Realistically, language skills today matter more than ever before. Here are some intriguing reasons why becoming multilingual will benefit your child now and well into the future:

Diversity education: The world is increasingly interconnected. From classmates at school to the colleagues they'll work alongside in their careers, children will encounter people of various races, religions and ethnicities. Learning a second language exposes a child to new cultures and ways of thinking that will help them appreciate diversity while also learning important skills like respect, tolerance, fairness and kindness. 

Brain development: It's easier for someone to learn a foreign language when they are young than when they are an adult. What's more, as a child learns a second language, the brain literally rewires itself. This not only helps first- and second-language development, but will also accelerate early childhood development in other academic areas, such as mathematics. Studies also show that learning a second language can help spark creativity, fueling your child's artistic side while helping them to think outside the box.

Brain health: It appears that learning and using a second language exercises the brain to help keep it "fit" throughout life. JNeurosci, The Journal of Neuroscience, published a study that shows that lifelong bilingualism can maintain youthful cognitive control abilities in aging. If your grandparents speak multiple languages, they're probably still pretty sharp because they are using their brains in different ways than monolingual seniors.

High job demand: Speaking a foreign language could put you in high demand throughout your career, and it's not just for people working internationally. Between 2010 and 2015, the share of online job listings targeting bilingual employees rose by 15.7 percent, while the raw number of bilingual job postings more than doubled, according to the New American Economy report about the growing importance of foreign-language skills in the U.S. job market. 

Higher pay potential: In addition to being in higher demand for work, your earning potential is increased when you're bilingual, too. For example, a person who entered the workforce in 2014 with second-language fluency could enjoy a 10 to 15 percent pay increase, notes a story from U.S. News and World Report. Executives want people with worldly experience and they are willing to pay for the right talent. 

Boosted confidence: Mastering a new skill is an amazing achievement. Bilingual children and their parents often enjoy increased confidence and self-esteem. When kids are competent and confident, they are poised for success, whether that's simply making new friends on the playground or acing a tough final at the end of the school year. Nothing beats feeling proud of your accomplishments!

And if these reasons weren't enough, there is something deeply human about being able to communicate effectively with another person, even when they speak a different language. It's this human element that will always fundamentally make foreign language an important topic and highly valuable skill.

What aspect of learning a foreign language do you find to be most beneficial?

Topics: childhood development, foreign language