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How Bilingual Kids Get Ahead: 7 Benefits of Learning a Second Language

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You’re wondering if you have the time and motivation to help your child learn a second language. And you’re not 100% convinced the effort will be worth it.

What benefits can a kid get from learning a second language?

With the internet and other technology making the globe seem smaller with each passing year, knowing additional languages is becoming more commonplace. It’s no longer the exception. And that’s a good thing for both your child and the people they interact with. Here are some of the biggest advantages becoming bilingual has for your child.

1. Opening Up the World of Travel

One of the most intimidating things about travel to many people is the language barrier. Language barriers have prevented some people from traveling to faraway destinations they would go visit if they only spoke the language there.

Now that travel to any part of the world is more accessible, it’s a shame to let anything get in the way of exploring our beautiful earth. Teaching your child a language could someday lead to them experiencing the joys of travel and the eye-opening experience of learning about other cultures.

Learning one country’s language opens up more travel possibilities than just that place though. Many languages are widely used throughout multiple countries. If you’re wanting to teach your child another language to help them travel throughout the world, look for a popular language that’s used many places. Your best bets would be Spanish, French, German, Russian, Portuguese, or Mandarin Chinese.

2. A Better Memory

According to some studies, one of the benefits of learning a second language is an enhanced memory. And amazingly, this works for both children and adults.

If you try to learn a second language with your child, you’ll improve your memory as you go. Although more conclusive research is needed to verify it, some studies have even shown a link between learning a second language and warding off dementia, at least for a while.

Anyone who has known an elderly person suffering from dementia knows how difficult the condition can be. Those with a family history of dementia, or anyone who feels they are at risk, may want to consider adding another language. You can make it a family learning project.

For an added boost, sneak some family exercise time into your language learning. Exercise is also another known way to slow down dementia. So lace up your sneakers and practice your vocabulary with your child as you take a walk. You’ll be working your body and mind at the same time for double the fun and benefits.

3. Improved Focus & Brain Function

Bilingual parenting is one of the best things you can do for your child when it comes to boosting their brain function. There is evidence that the benefits of learning a foreign language include greater intelligence and better concentration.

With so many electronic devices for kids to play with that gives them instant gratification, it’s good to give them an activity that doesn’t do all the work for them or give instant rewards for little effort. With language learning, you only get out of it what you put in.

If you’re worried your child may get frustrated trying to pick up one of the more difficult languages to learn, don’t worry. Some languages are easier for English speakers to pick up. You may want to start there, and possibly add a third language at a later point if your child shows interest.

One of the easiest languages for English speakers to learn is Norwegian. The vocabulary is quite similar and the grammar isn’t the same complicated mess that English can be.
Other easier languages for English speakers can learn include:

4. Better Job Opportunities

Will every child who attempts to learn a second language become fluent? Probably not. Unless they get constant exposure to the language, and there’s a roadmap in place to get them to a fluent level, they won’t gain more than basic conversational skills in their new language. That’s not a bad thing, but it won’t benefit them as much as fluency will.

If they become fluent, which will take some time, all kinds of possibilities open up to them. Just having that second language under their belt may give them an edge in their job search when they’re older. Bosses place a high emphasis on communication and having someone talented in many facets, including language, is a real asset to any company.

5. A More Realistic View of the World

Kids, and even some adults for that matter, can be incredibly self-centered. They can think the world revolves around them and their corner of the world. It’s good for everyone to at some point learn that’s not true.

The world needs less self-involved citizens, not more. Unfortunately, the U.S. has a reputation for being full of narcissistic people. Raising caring, understanding kids who know there’s a big world out there and that they aren’t the center of it, can help change the reputation we have here in the U.S.

It’s a game changer for them and can alter the course of their lives and how they view and relate to people.

There’s so much intolerance in the world already. Sharing languages can erase some of that, little by little, citizen by citizen.

6. Stronger Family Bonds

Families need to develop a strong bond — it’s the glue that holds them together. Adding a second language can do that.

If you have an elderly relative who only speaks one language, that’s not English, teaching your child that language will create stronger ties between them. They’ll be able to communicate without the help of anyone else, and they’ll get to know each other better. Once your child becomes more fluent with the language, they can spend more intimate together, conversing only in the new language.

Bringing together generations is just one of the great things learning a second language can do.

Are you an immigrant? Or did your ancestors come to this country, but you want to pay homage to that heritage? Teaching your kids the language of their ancestors can be a great way to do that.

Whether it’s learning French, Spanish, German, or even Gaelic, they may like knowing that they’re speaking the same words as their ancestors they’ve never met. It can give them a sense of belonging, which can be a grounding force in their life.

You can reinforce their feelings about this by showing them pictures of your ancestors who came from the country they’re learning the language from. Tell them what their name was and any other information you know about them. They’ll get a kick out of “meeting” some of their relatives.

7. Self-Confidence

Everyone loves to feel accomplished, and kids are no exception to that rule. Knowing a second language can give them that feeling. When you know you’ve tackled a daunting goal and accomplished what you set out to do, you can feel almost like a superhero. You feel as if there’s nothing you can’t do.

Learning another language can feel a bit like crossing the line when you’ve run your first marathon. You look back at how difficult it was in the beginning and you take pride in the fact that you never gave up, even when you had moments of self-doubt along the way. That creates confidence that can encourage your child to do anything.

Final Tip: Manage Your Expectations and Have Fun

Teaching your child another language can open up a whole new world to both of you. Just remember, it will take patience and plenty of understanding to learn this new skill. Try to avoid turning it into a pressure-cooker situation where you are disappointed because you don’t feel they’re learning fast enough.

You want to make this a fun experience for your child because they’ll be more likely to want to learn. Being bilingual should be a positive thing, and you have the power to make it so by offering encouragement instead of criticism. If it’s something your child sticks with, they will thank you for years to come for making this possible for them.

Are you raising or planning to raise your children bilingual? Let us know which language they are learning, how it’s going, and if you have any tips and tricks that are working for you!

author headshot

Jenny Silverstone

Senior Editor

Jenny Silverstone: Mother of two; Editor for the parenting blog Mom Loves Best; Passionate about language, literacy, and early childhood development.

Speaks: English and Spanish

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