Bonjour, guten tag, hola and ciao. Today we’re taking things internationally and looking at the benefits of being able to speak multiple languages, and more specifically, the impact the learning process has on children. We’re shouting from the rooftops that we should be getting our children to be bilingual or multi-lingual. Why, I hear you ask? Well, beyond being able to sound clever and cool in a foreign tongue (which, let’s face it, is reason enough), we should all encourage our children to learn languages because it’s been proven to help the cognitive development from an early age.
The UK is infamous for not being great with foreign languages. We all know the stereotypical Brit on holiday who refuses to try to speak the native language and instead just speaks English loudly and with wild hand gestures. Not the ideal image for the UK. However, with the rising popularity of apps like Duolingo that claim to make learning languages simple and fun, we’re noticing less of a reluctance across the country. We’re all starting to realise that languages aren’t as difficult as they seem, which is extending to the next generation. Parents who have had this realisation later in life, are promoting a bilingual childhood for their own offspring, to encourage opportunities and skills that they missed out on.
Getting children to learn another language from a young age has been proven to make them faster problem solvers, and have more experience at thinking critically; as well as being more likely to be creative. Thanks to the cognitive help from studying languages, bilingual people can also enjoy a longer life without Alzheimer’s and have a better memory; so an argument can be made for instilling these benefits early on. Why not be less likely to forget things from age 4 or 5 rather than starting to improve your memory at 34 or 45?
Beyond the cognitive benefits that learning a second (or third or fourth) language can offer, there are also numerous obvious cultural and career advantages too. If children learn languages with more ease and strength at a young age, they are then more likely to develop fluency in their second language. Having this string to their bow means that they’ll be more inclined to travel as they grow up, because they’ll be able to get around comfortably due to their language skills. Children are also taught to be more aware of other nations and cultures which leads to a more respectful manner of interacting. An additional language also helps get your foot in the door at modern and prestigious companies because it shows adaptability to a potential employer. You open up foreign markets and can negotiate with international clients.
So let’s tally this up, getting a child to learn languages at young age will not only help their brain development and creativity, but will make them empathetic people and also lead them to be more cultured, not to mention stand them in better stead for succeeding in their chosen profession. On top of all this, languages are fun and will help them engage with international people, which improves socialisation skills and usually implies a higher acceptance within society. It’s clear to see why we’re starting to complain that it’s not mandatory for a child to learn a modern language until secondary school in the UK. If there are all these magnificent side-effects, then why are we not embracing languages more?
This may seem like a long winded way of just saying languages are good, but there’s more to this than just a drive for more Brits knowing how to say hello when on holiday. If we challenge our children and push them to know more than our generation, then they will rise to the occasion. If we give them a potential new passion in school, they will thrive. If we teach our children’s brains how to adapt to different scenarios and languages early on, they will be better people and do better as a collective. We have the chance to give every child more tools with which to conquer the world, no matter their background. Your cognitive skills benefit in the same way whether you come from a two-parent household, a traumatic past or any other vulnerable situation – so maybe languages might be a new way to level the playing field and make sure we give every child their best shot.