THE FORGOTTEN SCHOOL SUPPLY

The summer is ending and it's about that time again - back to school. You have checked your school supply lists and searched for the latest and greatest with hopes of ensuring a successful year ahead for your children.  However, there is something you may not have thought about that could provide immense and lasting benefits for your child's education. I'm talking about foreign language study.

Some may consider this task only as far as it meets the high school requirements of language study. But there is so much more to studying a language and the benefits of such study can be endless.  There are several reasons you should consider encouraging language study for your children as soon as possible.

Primarily, the very act of studying a foreign language has been proven to provide cognitive benefits by exercising the brain in ways that are not met by the typical curriculum.  Bilingual children have been shown to have increased problem-solving skills, quicker response times, stronger ability in conflict management, and an increased ability to learn new skills.  In a way, the skills developed and exercised by foreign language learning can be extended across any area of life.  Increased problem solving and critical thinking may help ease the transition through difficult mathematics and science studies. A quicker ability to select and learn vocabulary will assist with literature studies (especially that pesky Shakespeare!).  In other words, an early start to foreign language education has the potential to better prepare your child for anything throughout their academic career.

These mental benefits do not end at school, but continue for a lifetime.  Bilingual education has also been associated with a reduced risk of Alzheimer's and other age-related decreases in cognitive function. By providing foreign language education for your child, they will not only have increased skills applicable to their current academic endeavors, but the brain will be permanently changed and improved for life.

Lastly, there is the more practical reward for a parent concerned about education. Naturally we all push our children to work hard toward the goal of a successful and fulfilling career. In this digital age, our communities are no longer limited to hometowns and in-person meetings, but we must function as citizens of a global community. The US is a minority in the world job market as a mostly monolinguistic society. European countries often have two, three, or even four official languages. It is natural for most people to be fluent in many languages and, in turn, easily outrank a monolingual American as a potential candidate for nearly any sort of job. The knowledge of a foreign language not only provides an advantage in mental skill, but at the least will help level the playing field for your child on their path to the career they desire.

This is all great, but why start now? There is a phenomenon in the process of language learning that we refer to as the critical period. The critical period is any age before puberty, when the brain is more readily able to acquire and store new information. In this case, it applies to the understanding of a foreign language. There is a marked difference in the speed and accuracy with which a child can acquire a language versus an adult spending the same time and effort.  Depending on the language, many systems have vastly different sound systems, grammatical structures, and even writing systems than English, which can be quite challenging. But with the mental pliability a child has before reaching the critical age, children have a greatly increased ability to overcome this challenge and acquire a native-like fluency in a foreign language, one that their adult counterparts may never achieve in a lifetime.

You can provide lifelong mental benefits for your child and open doors to an increasingly global and competitive job market by getting an early start on foreign language study. More importantly, your child is at an amazing point in their lives with access to these benefits at a degree no longer available by adulthood. Take advantage of this time now with language lessons designed for children such as those offered by World Class Languages. The language center, located in Boca Raton, Florida, provides excellent classes for children in a variety of foreign languages and will work with you and your child to provide a fun and rewarding learning experience for all.

 

About the author: Kalynn Aguirre loves traveling the world, practicing yoga, and exploring culture and language.  She discovered her passion for language after years spent studying Spanish and Italian, including living abroad for a brief time in Rome, a passion that culminated in attaining her Master’s in Linguistics. She is currently pursuing her interest in digitizing the language learning process by assisting in the development of a Spanish educational video game and writing about a variety of topics relating to language education