Immersion programs have become increasingly popular in the United States, especially in elementary schools. According to Education Dive:
“The growing popularity of dual language classes is being largely driven by middle class white families who recognize their monolingual children will be at a disadvantage in the global economy without a second language. If districts limit their programs to serving this narrow group, however, it is a major loss. Schools should be thinking of dual language education as an opportunity for native speakers of other languages, like Spanish.”
In other words, immersion programs benefit both native and non-native English speakers, meaning that all children can benefit from knowing another language besides the one they were born speaking. And let’s not forget that over half of the world’s population can speak more than one language!
How learning a second language impacts kids
Cognitive benefits: Bilinguals tend to have better attention spans and a greater capacity to multitask. Bilingual children tend to lag behind their peers in language development at age 3, but by age 7 they’ve often surpassed their peers (source). People who can speak more than one language get higher scores on tests that require problem-solving or creative thinking skills (source)
Emotional benefits: Besides the confidence of having such a broad knowledge base, bilingual kids can benefit from connections with family or friends who speak their second language.
Future opportunities: As children grow up, their multilingual skills can open many doors for jobs and travel, especially in an increasingly global economy.
How can my child learn a second language?
What if you yourself can’t speak a second language? You can still help your child gain at least conversational skills in another language. Here are some ideas:
- Have your child watch cartoons in another language
- Start young: the earlier, the better
- Look for a bilingual caregiver and ask her to speak your child’s second language as much as possible
- Use resources like apps and games that can help teach vocabulary
- Host an exchange student
- Make friends with people who speak the language you’re trying to learn
- If possible, travel to a country where your second language of choice is spoken
Introducing your child to other languages enriches their childhood, brain development, and social and cultural awareness. ¡Que te diviertas!
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