Yesterday morning, a parent raised a concern I hear over and over. He was worried learning Spanish might confuse his three-year-old. I reassured him it would not, and we talked about the benefits of language learning. Children are not confused by learning a new language, but it is true there are things that might happen if a child learns Spanish.
It only makes sense that parents be aware of the consequences of learning a second language. These are a few ways learning Spanish might impact a child.
He might have better social skills and be more tolerant of others.
Language learning improves tolerance and increases empathy. Speaking another language opens a child’s eyes to different ways of doing things. It also increases his comfort level when dealing with unfamiliar situations. If your child learns Spanish, it makes him better at seeing different points of view.
If your child learns Spanish, she might have more academic and professional opportunities.
A second language opens doors in many fields and correlates to higher salaries. The academic advantages of speaking two languages are also significant and translate to professional opportunities down the line.
If your child learns Spanish, she might be smarter and more creative.
Research shows that learning a second language develops problem-solving, critical-thinking, and listening skills. It also improves memory and concentration. There is also evidence that speaking a second language enhances creativity. If your child learns Spanish, it will increase her ability to think “outside the box.”
He might want to learn other languages and learn them more easily.
Language learning involves a set of mental skills that transfer from one language to another. In addition to discovering the enjoyment of learning languages, your child will find that he can learn additional languages more easily. If the languages have the same linguistic roots, the ease of acquisition jumps exponentially. If your child learns Spanish, there is a good chance he will learn French or Portuguese.
She might travel more and learn more about the world.
Speaking the language of places you visit changes everything. It makes travel easier, of course, but more important, it makes travel more meaningful. Speaking Spanish will allow your child to connect and understand 500 million people around the world.
He might teach his own children Spanish someday.
People who speak two languages appreciate the many advantages they have and the richness it brings to their lives. Speaking Spanish allows for a wider range of personal and professional relationships. Your child’s future family members may be speak Spanish, and he may choose to pass on the gift that you gave him.
If your child learns Spanish, you might learn a lot, too.
One of the joys of parenting is learning. We learn with our children every day, in every way imaginable. As your child explores a new language, you will discover history, cultures and new places.
Beyond the content, you will get to know your child better as you move through the language learning journey together. All significant experiences help us understand and connect with our children, and learning a language can be life-changing.
Information about the Benefits of Language Learning
There are many resources with information about the benefits of learning a second language. Here are a few to get to started.
This article in The Conversation describes how learning a new language improves tolerance.
Read more about the cognitive advantages of bilingualism in this scientific study available from the National Institutes of Health.
The Atlantic looks at how language learning fosters empathy.
The American Council on the Teaching of Foreign Languages (ACTFL) has complied an excellent set of resources on the benefits of language learning and bilingualism.