When deciding what world language your child should learn, there are many considerations. One question many parents struggle with is what factors should I consider when determining the right foreign language for my child?
The issue with this common question is that what's considered most practical is highly subjective. What you value most from learning a particular language is very different than what another parent may value. That being said, here are some considerations where you should weigh when evaluating what language your child should learn.
Factor: Opens travel opportunities
If your family loves to travel abroad, knowing the language can enhance your wanderlust adventures. Not including English, the 10 most spoken languages by native speakers are Mandarin, Spanish, Hindi, Arabic, Portuguese, Bengali, Russian, Japanese, Punjabi and German. Speaking any of the languages from this list will vastly open up your travel opportunities and ability to communicate in foreign countries.
Factor: Ability to connect with family
Many people place a high value on learning a language that is connected to their heritage. Perhaps this allows grandchildren to better build a relationship with their grandparents or distant relatives. Perhaps your family has a deep connection to your cultural roots, and it's meaningful to include children and adults in these customs. Whatever the reason, tradition and family are often viewed as highly valuable language considerations.
Factor: Ease of learning
Some people place value on how quickly they believe they can learn a language. The time it takes to become fluent varies depending on many factors, but generally English speakers learn languages more easily that use the same 26 letters of the Latin alphabet that they are familiar with. For example, Spanish uses this alphabet plus Ñ for a total of 27 letters. Other languages may not use this alphabet, but have other aspects that make them easier to learn. For example, Arabic has just two tenses: past and non-past.
Factor: Career advancement and earning potential
It's no secret that being multilingual can give you an edge in your career. Spanish is the second most spoken language in the U.S., so if you can speak it you may have an advantage over other candidates. Looking beyond the U.S., if you consider the number of people who speak Mandarin or Arabic, it's hard to deny the value of learning these languages.
By being multilingual you may get more job opportunities, more advancement opportunities and the ability to demand a higher salary due to your language skills and cultural appreciation. In fact, considering factors like annual salary increases and compound interest, The Economist estimates that, "your Spanish is worth $51,000, French $77,000, and German $128,000." This is a significant chunk of change throughout a lifetime of professional work!