5 Reasons to Teach Your Child a Second Language

Tuned In Parents - 5 Reasons to Teach Your Child a Second Language, child development, education, parenting tipsThe effects of learning a foreign language on the developing brain of a child are significant and offer major advantages over children who only learn one language. And if you, or someone in your family, already speak a second language and preserve its integrity in the home, then your kids are off to a great start. If not, there are tips for teaching your child a foreign language at the end of the article.

1. Myth: Teaching young children a second language confuses them and interferes with normal language development. In fact, studies find the earlier children are exposed to a second language, the higher their aptitude will be in that language.

2. Children who learn a second language develop the ability to focus better than those who only know one language. Most importantly, they can filter out distractions that would otherwise compromise their attention. (Cornell Language Acquisitions Lab – CLAL)

3. Teaching children a foreign language gives them an academic boost. According to Barbara Lust, Director of CLAL, “Cognitive advantages follow from becoming bilingual. These cognitive advantages can contribute to a child’s future academic success.” Better grades, better schools, better opportunities.

4. Learning a foreign language in childhood also develops advanced critical thinking.

“Studies have shown repeatedly that foreign language learning increases critical thinking skills, creativity, and flexibility of mind in young children. Students who are learning a foreign language out-score their non-foreign language learning peers in the verbal and, surprisingly to some, the math sections of standardized tests. This relationship between foreign language study and increased mathematical skill development, particularly in the area of problem solving, points once again to the fact that second language learning is more of a cognitive than linguistic activity.” -Therese Sullivan Caccavale, president of the National Network for Early Language Learning (NNELL)

5. To compete and succeed in the world today, and especially in the world of our children’s future, one has to have a global mindset, be culturally savvy and proficient in at least one major foreign language.image

When budget cuts are considered in schools, languages are usually among the first to go, despite their proven developmental importance to our kids and their future academic success. But there are many ways you can offer your children the advantage of a second language at home, even if that means you have to learn along with them!

Tips for teaching your child a second language

  • Immersion is best. If you, or any relatives, speak a second language, speak it freely; encourage the family to speak it around your little one. If not, seek out a school or daycare that has a bilingual program. Find friends for your child that speak the language and set up playdates — it can make a huge difference!
  • Make it fun! Play music she likes in a second language. And change up her visual entertainment. Play the cartoons or movies she’s familiar with in the forgein language (you can find a lot on Youtube, i.e., search “Peppa Pig in Spanish” — even make your own playlist of her favorites). For example, if I buy a movie for my daughter, I make sure it has Spanish audio and subtitles because I know she’ll watch it over and over and over. And after she watches anything on DVD two times, we switch to Spanish. She already knows what’s going on, only now she’s processing it in another language.
  • Read. Lea. Lisez. Find engaging, developmentally appropriate books in the foreign language to read to your child. If you’re learning the language, too, there are plenty of bilingual books, so you know what you’re reading. This is one of my favorite options, for you get your reading time in and the language, too! (You should hear me trying to read “The Cat in the Hat” in Spanish — a lesson in breath control, to say the least.)

Do you have any tips for teaching kids a second language? Send them my way; I’d love to share them in my upcoming post on DIY language learning activities!

-Elle C.

Thank you for being tuned in parents. I welcome your comments, suggestions, and tips! There’s more for you, too, on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram!

Cognitive Benefits of Learning Languages. http://tip.duke.edu/node/866

Lang, S. (2009). Cornell Chronicle – Learning a second language is good childhood mind medicine, studies find. http://www.news.cornell.edu/stories/2009/05/learning-second-language-good-childhood-mind-medicine

About Elle C. Mayberry

Elle C. Mayberry is a mom and author, who just released a new children’s book with her young daughter. With a passion for parenting and degrees in psychology and “make it workology,” she created Tuned In Parents (TiP).

13 comments on “5 Reasons to Teach Your Child a Second Language

  1. Yes! I spoke fluent Spanish until I was five, learned English and was fluent in it in 18 weeks, and then didn’t speak Spanish again until high school and after not using it a year out of college, I lost it. Now I can understand it (mostly) but I am not always sure what to say back. I do have some Spanish books that I read to the boys and am hoping to learn to speak it fluently with them as they get older.

    • Becoming fluent in your second language in 18wks is impressive, but not surprising considering you were so young and immersed in it. 🙂 No doubt your first language will start flowing again as you continue to teach it to Caleb and Cohen. 🙂

  2. Great reasons. I agree, teaching another language to a child opens up their learning horizons. Thanks for sharing on Literacy Musing Mondays. I hope you continue to be a regular on our linkup.

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    I’ve been wanting to learn a second language myself, and have been thinking that it would be a great activity for my daughter and I to do together. This is definitely the push I needed to finally get started!

    Thank you for sharing with us at #mommymeetupmondays!

    • Good for you for stoking that ember of interest, Mother of 3. He’ll benefit greatly from it, and so might you and your younger child perhaps, if the enthusiasm catches. 🙂

  4. My son is bilingual, although his Finnish (my mother tongue) isn’t as fluent as Spanish (his father’s language and the language of the country where we live). But I want him to learn both because of how useful it is to know languages and also so he can live his both identities and nationalities. He’s also learning English and getting better at it.

    • I love it, Joanna! It sounds like your son is living in a rich linguistic environment. This early exposure will serve him well throughout life!

  5. Brilliant post! I’m bilingual so I want to teach my baby my native language (even though I’m not fluent in it – I only casually speak it with grandparents). These are great reasons!

    • You just gave us another reason to teach kids a second language, Julie. To stay fluent or learn a new language ourselves! Teaching my daughter Spanish helps me maintain my fluency, and we’re pretty much learning French and German together. 🙂

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