Many students struggle with learning a second language such as French or Spanish and don’t see the benefits to their everyday lives.
However, as parents we know that a second language can open up opportunities in terms of career, travel, literature and the appreciation of art and culture. More importantly, research has revealed that learning another language helps build other skills as well.
Problem-solving: The brain’s ability to switch between two or more different languages has been shown to improve problem solving in other areas as well. This helps to boost success in areas such as math.
Test-taking: A 2004 study out of York University in Toronto found that students who were bilingual did better on standardized tests than their unilingual classmates.
Multi-tasking: When kids learn to switch between languages, switching between tasks becomes easier as well. While multi-tasking and studying isn’t a great idea, it’s definitely a skill your teenager will be using as our society becomes more wired.
Improved memory: There’s no doubt that learning an entirely new vocabulary stretches the brain’s capacity for memorizing and retrieving information. This is helpful for classes where definitions, dates, names and other pieces of information are central to understanding.
Concentration: People who are good at learning new languages have an ability to focus. Learning a language can help your child direct their attention to what people are saying and retain the important information.
Grammar: When a child learns a second language, he or she is also being exposed to the different parts of speech. It becomes even more important to know what nouns, verbs, adverbs and adjectives are and to learn how to structure them in a sentence. Learning the rules of grammar can help children improve their English speaking and writing skills as well.
Given the benefits of learning a second language, how can we help our child succeed?
Exposing your child to other cultures can increase their interest in languages. Look for international films, books and magazines at the library. Check community listings to see if there are any relevant festivals happening nearby. Go to a restaurant that serves dishes from a region where the language is spoken. Your child will have fun recognizing words on the menu.
Many adults regret their own inability to learn a second language when they were younger. Use this opportunity to study the same material and practice with your child.
A tutor can be extremely helpful in learning a second language as they can provide your child with an opportunity to practice in a less intimidating setting than the classroom. Working with a tutor on roadblocks, whether it’s grammar, vocabulary or accent, can give a student the confidence to succeed.
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