Second Language: Should My Child Know More Than One?
One of the most common reasons parents choose not to introduce a second language to their child is that it is pointless because they will “never become fluent.” While it’s understandable where this kind of thinking comes from, this reason shouldn’t deter you from immersing your children into other cultures and languages.
There are so many benefits to introducing a second language to your little ones that it would be silly not to if we’re being honest.
Learning a second language encourages open-mindedness
While learning a second language, it is natural to be curious about the cultures of the language’s native speakers. This opens up an opportunity for them to learn about where the language originated, who speaks the language and the everyday lives of native-speaking people.
This can also be a learning opportunity for you as the parent. Let’s say your little one has been introduced to Mandarin Chinese. You can take this opportunity to learn about Chinese traditions like the Chinese New Year together, or you can find a traditional Chinese recipe and cook up a yummy oriental dish together.
When someone is immersed in cultures apart from their own, they spend less time “judging a book by its cover,” and more time being accepting of others who are different from them.
Children who speak a second language have an easier time focusing than others
Studies have shown that knowing more than one language positively affects your brain’s ability to focus on a task and tune out other distractions. This makes sense considering how you have to pay close attention while learning the second language to get pronunciation and grammar correct.
Switching between your native language and your second language also requires paying close attention, so you don’t accidentally mix up the two languages and say or write something that makes no sense.
Learning a second language at a young age increases fluency
Studies have shown that toddlers learn faster than older kids and adults. This makes the ages 0-5 the prime age range to introduce a second language to your little ones. It has also been found that children who are introduced to a second language early on can develop a “native accent” to their second language.
There are several ways to help your child learn a new language even if it isn’t your personal strong suit. You can typically find classes for your little ones at several organizations in your area. When choosing a class, it is important to look for the following:
- Is the class taught by a native speaker?
- Is the class interactive and engaging?
- How long does it last and what is the teacher/child ratio?
Another great way to ensure they learn a new language is to find ways to implement it at home. This could be anything from labeling household items you use every day to reading books in said language and even arranging for your little one to have a penpal from a country that speaks the language they are trying to learn.
Like anything your child will learn, it is important to make sure you continue the teachings while at home. This will ensure that they know and understand fully what it is they are learning. It can also be pretty encouraging when you’re on the sidelines cheering them on and trying to help them every step of the way!