Bilingual Benefits–Why you should teach your child a second language now
From increased creative thinking to improved multi-tasking, Heidi Bernal, principal of Adams Spanish Immersion School in St. Paul, Minn., sees firsthand the benefits of students learning a second language. “Children are like little sponges and they’re already in a learning mode,” she says. “Most are not afraid to jump in and take a risk (when learning a new language). We use dance, pantomime and pictures and they pick it up quickly.”
Bernal points out that new research shows that learning a second language increases brain function.In addition, she says there are long-term advantages such as better job opportunities, and savvy parents, wanting the best for their kids, are looking ahead to their futures.
“Spanish is the fastest-growing language group in the United States so there’s a practical use,” Bernal says, “But there are also kids learning Mandarin, and with the global economy, those children might work in international business some day.”
Tips for parents
Nancy Rhodes, director of foreign-language education at the Center for Applied Linguistics, in Washington, D.C, says learning a second language, particularly for younger children, doesn’t have to be taught in formal classrooms. She recommends that parents provide fun and interactive language-learning environments. For example, children can learn by watching TV shows like Sesame Street, which teaches basic Spanish words to preschoolers. Many parents also add bilingual books, CDs and toys.
“I would suggest to parents that there are all sorts of programs you can do at home,” Rhodes says. “The more you expose your child to language the better, even if it’s playing CDS and playing songs. You just want to expose the children to the different sounds…
Then it won’t seem so ‘foreign’ when the child starts to learn and really study a language.”
Guest Author: Purna Virji
Purna Virji possesses a talent for learning new languages with six in her present language-speaking repertoire. She is a former producer for an Emmy-nominated television show with a master’s degree in international journalism. She currently works at Pimsleur Approach, the world leader in the audio-based, language-learning program developed by Dr. Paul Pimsleur.