Perks of Being Bilingual: Why Kids Should Learn Another Language
Updated: Nov 9, 2020
Did you know that more than 180 languages are spoken across the state of Washington in the United States?
Bilingualism—the ability to express oneself in two languages—is on the rise, helping facilitate cross-cultural interactions in a whole new level. Now more than ever, speaking more than one language is instrumental in connecting with others in your community.
As with any skill, learning a second language is easier when there are plenty of practice opportunities. As they say, practice makes perfect. The best way to learn a language is to start young and use it in everyday, real-world situations like in a home or at school.
Talking to your children at home in their second language—whether it’s Mandarin, Spanish, French, or any other widely-used language—enables them to practice in an environment that they’re familiar with. Choosing to have your kids learn Chinese online is also a great option because it allows them to learn at their own pace.
Bilingualism offers several advantages for your kids—it gives them an academic edge, higher cognitive skills, healthy social interactions, and better career opportunities, as you’ll learn in this infographic.
Why Should Kids Learn a Foreign Language?
The ability to speak a foreign language is considered a valuable asset now more than ever. As people become increasingly connected, bilingualism helps reduce communication barriers and makes interaction with the rest of the world possible. Sounds great, right? But why should kids learn another language?
The bottom line is that the positive effects of being bilingual are long-lasting for kids—starting from the years they spend in school and continuing to their adult life. Here are the different benefits of bilingualism for children.
1. Academic Advantage
Studies have shown that bilingual students excel in school, especially in essential literacy skills like reading and writing, and major subject areas like math. Since bilingual learners are exposed to a second language other than their native language, they’re better equipped in phonics—an important pre-reading skills.
They also have a wider vocabulary as they try to learn the equivalent of any word in their first or second language. In addition, bilinguals have a remarkable ability to focus and adapt to certain situations. For example, when your child greets you “Good morning” and then says “Zǎoshang hǎo” to his/her teacher, it tells you that your child is becoming skilled at inhibiting one language while using the other.
Bilingualism can also help your children in college admission. Data shows that students who have undergone foreign language study get higher scores in standardized college entrance exams, with their linguistic intelligence playing an essential role in test comprehension.
2. Cognitive Edge
Bilinguals have higher cognitive skills than those who are fluent in only one language. Research shows that certain parts of the brain are activated when bilingual speakers switch from one language to the other. The effort and attention needed to switch between languages train kids to become better learners, problem solvers, and multitaskers.
Bilingualism increases children’s metalinguistic awareness or the ability to understand how language works and how they can explore them in different scenarios. For example, a bilingual writer can create many different versions of the same message because he/she knows how to manipulate words to best capture the intended meaning.
Researchers also believe that babies from bilingual homes develop better cognitive functions by simply listening to two different languages. Even in situations when a bilingual learner is speaking in only one language, the truth is that his/her brain has both language systems running. This shows that the brain is working extra hard to process more information and giving the person increased brainpower.
There’s also compelling evidence that bilingualism can protect the brain from illnesses related to mental aging, such as Alzheimer’s and other forms of dementia. Thanks to the efficient utilization of their brain networks, Bilinguals are better equipped to stave off cognitive decline as they age. The appearance of symptoms like memory loss and problem-solving difficulties are delayed by as much as five years.
3. Global Citizenship
Bilingualism develops not only language skills but also social skills that help form relationships with people from different cultures or backgrounds. Bilingualism can teach your children one of the most important values in life—empathy, or the ability to be perceptive and accepting of others. So, even at a young age, your kids can contribute to social formation while learning a new language. Of course, there’s the bonus of your children being able to travel in different countries with ease. While they can get around many places without speaking the language, the experience becomes a lot more fun if you or your children know how to speak the local language of the place you’re visiting. No need for a mobile app translator when you have to get something from the grocery store or ride public transport!
4. Career Competitiveness
Truth be told, the career opportunities between bilingual professionals and monolingual workers aren’t always equal, as some employers prefer candidates who are fluent in two or more languages.
For jobs that require bilingual skills, companies are willing to pay by the hour with an extra rate of 5% to 20% on top of their base salary. Companies do this to compensate staff who can help increase the company’s revenue by using their communication skills to break through international markets, not to mention that foreign languages are not the easiest language to learn.
Also, with over half of the world’s population being either bilingual or multilingual, there are countries where being a bilingual speaker is the bare minimum. For example, in Canada, certain job positions seek candidates with knowledge of a third language aside from the required competence in English and French.
Chinese speakers are also in demand, which should tell you and your children why you should learn Chinese at home. As businesses in many parts of the world recognize China’s role in the global economy, Chinese-speaking individuals can find a wide range of career opportunities that may not be available to non-Chinese speakers.
Online Chinese classes are a good first step in ensuring that your children have a better chance of getting their dream job.
Being Bilingual Is Good for Kids
Teachers, parents, psychologists, and other stakeholders are clear about the multiple benefits of bilingualism for children. On top of the learning advantages associated with bilingualism, the rise of global markets underlines the growing importance of speaking more than one language.
Equip your child with the cognitive advantage that comes with learning another language and prepare them for the future by raising them bilingual.
Don’t know where to start? Enroll your children in Ni Hao’s online Chinese classes!
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