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Today's Family Magazine

Your child and the benefits of learning a second language

By Jan Pierce

We hear so much these days about a “globally diverse community” and well we should because our children will have the opportunity to travel more than we ever did and will be exposed to many diverse cultures in their lifetime.  One way to help prepare young children for their future in the adult world is to expose them to a second language at an early age.

Studies show that there are optimal times for the brain to “hear” and be able to duplicate correctly the sounds of a second language. The earlier the exposure begins, the better to achieve native-like grammar and pronunciation. They also show that immersion in a language is far better than introducing a new language in several lessons a week. The learner needs opportunities to hear, imitate sounds and absorb grammatical patterns. While there is a lot of ongoing discussion on how and when to learn a second language, scholars agree there are definite benefits.

Benefits of learning a second language
  • Enjoyment of communication increases with development of several languages
  • A greater appreciation of diversity is developed
  • Success in English is also increased
  • The brain is able to “compartmentalize” different languages with no confusions
  • Those knowing several languages score higher on standardized tests such as the SAT
  • Math scores and problem solving abilities are increased
  • Those knowing several languages will be prepared to find jobs in business, politics, the military and other global spheres.
Some children will have a greater aptitude for language learning than others.  This aptitude is broken down into skills which include sensitivity to sound and structure for learning pronunciation and grammar, and memory for learning new words and meanings.

If your local schools are offering second languages, that’s wonderful. If they aren’t, perhaps you can find local language centers or schools specializing in immersion language instruction. 

Another way to approach instruction of a second language is the use of various prepackaged programs for use at home.  They usually include a combination of books, workbooks along with DVDs or CDs.  Here are some of the best:
Muzzy: comes in French, Spanish, German, Italian and Chinese
Language Adventure: comes in Spanish, French, Japanese, Italian and German
Eazyspeak: comes in French, Spanish and German
Kidspeak: comes in Spanish, French, German, Italian and Hebrew

Language learning websites for children are a wonderful way to gain language exposure. Try Chillola, Duolingo, Kids Web Japan or Voyage Kids.

And finally, even selective television watching can offer a bilingual component to a child’s life.  So give your children or grandchildren a boost in their overall learning and open doors to future travel, careers and love of communication in our ever-expanding global community. Expose them to a second or third language, and here’s a great idea, why don’t you join in the fun and begin to learn a new language right along with your kids!