We all know the obvious – and much publicised – advantages of being able to speak a second language, like the future employment opportunities it brings. But there are also more subtle and less commonly discussed benefits that parents might not consider when thinking about starting their child’s language journey.
Here are 10 life-changing benefits of language learning that aren’t the ones you always see being mentioned!
#1 Learn the pleasure of discovery
Learning a second language awakens the joy of learning, helping the learner to develop a positive attitude and energy towards the pleasure of discovery. And creating this positive association with learning, discovery and trying new things has a halo effect on other learning occasions too!
#2 Better understanding of different walks of life
Language allows us to share our thoughts, feelings, experiences and knowledge. Learning a new language opens doors; not just doors to opportunity (through these are plentiful) but doors to experience, shared understanding and empathy. Being able to speak with someone in their own language gives the learner a profound opportunity to not just talk but to communicate. To understand. To listen to and be heard by people from all walks of life.
#3 Enhanced travel experiences
When Wittgenstein said, “the limits of your language are the limits of your world” he was on to something. Having another language adds a whole new dimension to adventures abroad, leading to new friendships, a more profound depth of understanding cultural discoveries and (my favourite) memorable encounters with previously unknown local delicacies! Traveling becomes so much easier and more fulfilling if someone can speak the language of the country they’re in.
#4 Sharpened cognitive skills
Results from the American Academy of Neurology demonstrate speaking more than one language increases the number of neural pathways in the brain, and being able to switch between languages enhances abilities to multi-task and develop problem solving skills. And it’s not just about being smart, it’s about staying smart; research from York University shows that bilingualism can stave off the effects of Alzheimer’s and dementia by years.
#5 Improved native tongue
Learning a second language helps children become better speakers of their mother tongue: and research shows children learning a second language start reading earlier, with the advantage increasing the earlier they are exposed to a second language. Bilingual children are also better at identifying grammatically incorrect sentences than monolinguals, because learning a language teaches the mechanics and structure that underpin any language (including the native one.)
#6 A more analytical mind
Bilinguals are demonstrably more logical, rational and have better decision-making skills than their monolingual peers. Researchers at the University of Chicago theorize that thinking in another language creates a cognitive distance that results in more thoughtful and less emotionally-driven decision making. And if that’s not enough, research even shows polyglots are even more perceptive and aware of their surroundings than monolinguals!
#7 Powerful intellectual development
Bilinguals possess better intellectual flexibility, greater ease coping with ambiguity or contradiction, and are more adept at juggling information while filtering out unnecessary distractions. Researchers conclude this is probably because the process of acquiring a second language forces the learner to reach for alternate words when they’re stuck, thereby improving skills in divergent thinking – the ability to identify multiple solutions to a single problem.
#8 Suppressed learning barriers
Learning a language is a brilliant way of helping those who don’t necessarily have huge confidence in an educational setting to discover that learning can be fun and that they can grow and develop through relaxed communication and being a part of a community. Learning take place in so many different ways, and once leaners feel capable and comfortable dropping those barriers, they gain a newfound confidence which they can make use of in other learning situations.
#9 Improved focus and concentration
Evidence suggests that learning languages improves focus, with attention test research demonstrating that those who speak two languages have improved concentration and are more able to ignore distractions than their monolingual peers.
#10 Confidence and self esteem
Learning a new language brings a unique sense of achievement and the ease and enjoyment of the experience can help to increase self-esteem.
At The VICI, we have decades of experience teaching foreign languages to children around the world, and our programmes are the perfect way to expand your child’s horizons, giving them a great start and a truly competitive advantage.
Our focus is not only teaching your child how to speak a foreign tongue, but that we are instilling in them a love and appreciation of languages from the very earliest stage. And that, above all else is our goal.