I studied Spanish throughout high school. Four years of it, from the basics of mi nombre es to struggling to pass my Advanced Placement Spanish class my senior year.
Both my parents knew Spanish. They learned the language through their work, as they both spent twenty-plus years teaching in an inner-city school district that was primarily Spanish-speaking.
Did they teach it to me before I learned my first few words in my freshmen class? Nope. And I don’t want to repeat the same error with my children!
What the Science Shows
Research on linguistics suggests that babies can accurately discriminate between all languages and sounds in the world. That’s right- long before they can talk and share their own ideas, they are actively listening and taking in different sounds and tones.
That means that the exposure to one or more languages shows them a different set of tones and sounds. Before they have concretized all the meanings and rules indicative of a specific language, they have already taken in the nuances from various dialects.
Better Brain Development
Research continues to highlight the benefits of being bilingual. For one, people who can speak more than one language tend to exhibit better multitasking and attention-focusing skills. For two, they tend to have higher levels of gray matter in the brain- these are the areas responsible for executive, cognitive functioning.
Essentially, by exposing your baby to a second language, you are cultivating brain growth. What parent wouldn’t want that?
It’s Easier for Kids
No doubt about it: learning a new language requires patience and discipline. With that said, all parents understand that kids basically act like sponges when it comes to absorbing (and subsequently) retaining critical information.
Research backs this. In fact, through the age of about 7 or 8, children can adequately learn a second language complete with proper and fluent grammar- and they won’t reveal any hints of an accent. After this critical growth period, however, this uncanny ability to master the language decreases (thanks, Mom and Dad).
Oh, and better yet? Once you learn one foreign language, it’s easier to keep learning others.
Boosts Empathy & World Understanding
It’s no secret that I’m a huge fan of world travel. I believe seeing and exploring other foreign countries is one of the greatest ways to expand our own horizons and become better people overall. Moreover, travel is a lot of fun, and it’s even more fun when you can speak some or all of the language!
I know that I want my kids to feel comfortable traveling and interacting with others around the world. After all, the majority of the world is bilingual. I want my kids to be able to enjoy that marvelous gift!