Ola. Donde está la biblioteca? Dónde está el baño? Tengo mapaches en mis pantalones! ¿Puedo tener una chimichanga? These are all phrases that your child may find crucial to know some point in their life.
But if your child is never in need of deep fried Mexican food, or a library book, or a public bathroom to extricate the furry trash-robbers that have infiltrated their chinos, are there other benefits to learning a second language? It turns out that the answer to that question is a resounding yes.
Many studies have been done regarding the benefits children receive from learning more than just their native language. And those benefits range from seemingly immediate improvements in cognitive abilities to long range brain health. Here’s a sampling:
A study published in the Journal Of Experimental Child Psychology noted that bilingual toddlers performed better at executive functioning tests like sorting blocks than their monolingual peers. So, good news for your future architect?
Researchers from the Cornell Language Acquisition Lab have found that kids who know more than one language can concentrate better in the face of outside distractions. Which explains why your kid ignores you so well whenever Dora is on.
Better Grasp Of English
Research shows that kids who learn a second language also have a better grasp of concepts in the English language. If that’s not their second language. You get it.
A kid who is learning another language is automatically exposed to the culture of that language. That’s because languages are deeply ingrained in the lives of the people who speak them.
A kid who knows a second language is more prepared for a changing nation. And rest assured that it is changing. Learning a foreign language now (Mandarin, Spanish and German highly recommended) will allow them to have additional job opportunities in the future.
It’s been shown that those who know a second language are less likely to experience cognitive deterioration as they age. Which is why your Nona can still trash talk you like a pro.
What’s more, the earlier your kid starts learning a second language, the better. Little brains are pretty much perfectly tuned to pick up the unique sounds and inflections required to become fluent.
How To Get Bilingual
The assumption here is that you’re not already living in a bilingual household, or enrolled in a bilingual daycare of some sort. If either of those things are happening in your life, then just keep talking to your kid and sending them to daycare. Good job! 100++!
However, if you’re in a monolingual rut and want to make a second language happen in your home, there are some ways to go about it. Here are a few:
If you’re looking for a nanny, or even a babysitter, look for non-native English speakers who would be willing to split the difference in communication with your kid. This allows your child to be briefly immersed in a language while you are absent. Paranoia about whether or not your kid is swearing at you in Russian is completely reasonable.
Au Pairs are a great option in this case. These kid-centric exchange students bring along both their culture and their language. You might even learn something too. For instance, Swedish girls don’t wear bikinis 24/7 and it’s ludicrous you ever thought that was the case.
Often times families have older folks who immigrated to America and maintain a strong grasp on their native tongues. If this is the case, it’s time to put your abuelita to work. Visit more often. And in those visits encourage them to use their native tongue with your kid as much as possible.
There are some fine language programs and apps out there in the world. Some are directed at children as young as 6-months old. This simplicity and repetition of these programs will help your kid learn and give you a good base of instruction too. Here are a couple of great options.
Learning a language is best achieved by full immersion into both the culture and the language. This is best accomplished by traveling. But wherever you travel will have to be beyond the homogeneity of resorts packed by tourists where English may be the common currency. There are travel programs specifically for language learners that also cater to the whole family. Plus the flan will probably be better away from the resort, quite honestly.
No matter how you chose to learn, making it a family affair will only increase the chance that your kid will learn. Soon the immersion will come from staying at home. And what better way to learn anything than by not risky pants raccoons as you stay safe on your couch. Si.