There’s no denying that we are living in a new era dominated by globalization, where people from different cultures and who speak different languages are interacting more now than any other point in history.
There have been over 6,000 languages recorded globally, spread over 190 countries and in none of them do people speak a single language. Take the US for instance, where over 300 languages are believed to be alive and well in addition to English.
These trends aren’t set to change anytime soon either and an increasing number of kids are growing up bilingual. As well as kids from multicultural backgrounds, other parents are also making the decision to introduce their children to new languages, largely as a result of the many reported advantages.
The Cognitive Benefits
Over the years the benefits of bilingualism have been frequently reported in scientific literature and the mass media. In fact, many studies have highlighted how bilingual children outperform monolingual children on a number of cognitive tasks. The reasons for this appear to be the fact that learning two languages leads to structural changes in the brain and strengthens certain neurological pathways.
When an individual is fluent in more than one language, both of the languages are active at the same time. For example, when a person hears the beginning of a word, their brain begins to recognize and associate words across both languages, which results in a consistent demand to interchange between both languages, which is thought to strengthen cognitive abilities such as concentration.
In one study, structural changes in the brain were also observed, which is thought to result in better concentration, sensory control and memory; all fundamental to the learning process. For instance blood flow, which is a sign of increased brain activity, was increased in the brain stem of bilingual individuals in response to auditory stimulation or sound. Such findings indicate that there is a promising benefit to learning another language in childhood.
The Emotional & Social Benefits
If a child is going to be interacting with friends and family members from other communities, then the benefits of speaking a second language are obvious. It allows kids to communicate with them clearly and therefore understand and gain more from their interactions. For instance, if a child has one grandparent who speaks English, while one speaks Spanish, by speaking both languages the child is able to form a more intimate relationship with both equally.
Other studies highlight that children who are bilingual also seem to have improved concentration and are able to better modulate their behaviour, bringing about improved bonding and reduced levels of poor behavior.
Improved Language Learning Proficiency
Not only does learning a second language hold its own practical and clear benefits, but it actually makes it easier to learn further languages. In fact, it has been demonstrated that people who have learnt to speak a second language find it much easier to learn a third language and so on, indicating that it has a compounding effect.
Some studies have also shown that bilingual kids also find it easier to grasp other concepts more easily than monolingual kids too, including maths, which in many ways can be compared to a language, as well as computer programming.
Additionally, being bilingual means your kids are more likely to learn a second language too, so the benefits can be felt for many generations ahead!
Greater Understanding of Different Cultures & Improved Community Cohesion
You may have heard this one before, but it is still worth pointing out as a major benefit of raising a bilingual child. Children who speak more than one language are better able to understand and relate to other communities, which is especially useful in today’s ever changing, multicultural societies.
Instead of simply being taught about another culture or simply hearing about it from friends or on TV, kids can actually partake in different cultures. This can help them be more open and outward looking, instead of simply having an exclusive viewpoint towards the community they spend most of their time in.
Being able to speak a second language also holds what some may consider more practical benefits too. The reality is that people who can speak a second language typically have greater prospects when it comes to the job market. Being fluent in another language opens opportunities up in other countries, with government, manufacturing and healthcare being the leaders in demanding bilingual individuals across the globe.
Teaching a child a second language may seem like a difficult process, but with perseverance it’s easier than you may think. It’s important to remember that learning a second language is far easier for children than it is for adults, so seize this opportunity as the long term benefits are clear.
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Guest Author Bio
Jennifer Mclean is a mother of three, housewife and full time blogger whose ramblings and research can be read on her blog and passion project Mom Bible. Jennifer writes about a wide range of parenting topics including health, education, behavior, spirituality and even product reviews.