If you have a child going into high school, you might have a child who is excited to study a foreign language, or you might have a child who is dreading it. In my case, it is the latter. My freshman daughter confided in me that she is very nervous about getting decent grades in her French class because she has a hard time understanding the grammar rules of English. She says she even has trouble remembering the parts of speech. While her peers comprehend the function of nouns, verbs, adjectives, and adverbs, she is left in the dust while everyone else can move ahead with more in-depth grammar competence. She thinks that if she cannot understand the rules of her own language, it will be impossible for her to learn another language.
While learning a second language can be a daunting task, the benefits of learning a second language are well worth the effort. This article will highlight a few of the rewards that foreign language students can reap from their studies.
Deepens Understanding of First Language
My daughter said she is scared to study a second language because she does not understand the grammar rules of her first language, English. What I said to her in response is that one benefit of studying a second language is that it can deepen a person’s understanding of their first language. When we learn our first language, we do so without realizing it. As babies, we do not sit down with grammar textbooks or flashcards in order to learn how to speak. Exposing ourselves to a new language can help us learn the language naturally.
While we can speak and understand our native language, we do not necessarily have a thorough understanding of its structures and rules. With the introduction of language learning in an academic setting, we learn the rules of grammar and pronunciation. Inevitably, we end up comparing the rules of the new language to the rules of our first language. This method of comparison is very eye-opening when we look at our native language. Therefore, studying a second language can uniquely engage and expand our understanding of our first language.
Provides Cognitive Benefits Across the Board
Studying a new language is a great way to exercise your brain and build new neurological connections. It is like lifting weights to strengthen your cognitive muscles. According to an article by Carly Spence in the Cambridge University Press, “Having new experiences (novelty) is an important factor in forming new connections in the brain and strengthening nervous system links.’’ Furthermore, a 2016 study shows that participating in second language learning, even for a short amount of time, can increase attention span, strengthen skills of multitasking, improve memory, and stave off cognitive decline. Students can use these skills across the board to achieve proficiency in all areas of study.
My daughter who is apprehensive about second language learning already excels in mathematics and higher-level classes in most subjects. Although she is nervous to do so, adding a foreign language to her academic repertoire will not only add that subject to her resume, but should also strengthen the areas in which she is already excelling.
Increases Potential and Performance Within Global Job Market
In addition to all the cognitive benefits listed above, there are also many career benefits for second language learners. The rise and expansion of the internet has rendered our world more connected than ever. This means that people from all different linguistic backgrounds are working together to make the world go round. In this globally connected society, knowing a second language is very important when it comes to choosing and building a career. Bilingualism automatically increases your potential job market from that of your home country to any other country where that second language is spoken. It also increases your ability to effectively communicate with people from other cultures. Effective communication is crucial to global collaboration.
From expanding your career options, to improving cognitive abilities, to gaining a better understanding of your native language, studying a foreign language comes with many perks. While sitting down and studying grammar rules, vocabulary, and pronunciation may be intimidating, it is very much worthwhile. Plus, once you gain a decent understanding of the language, you can imagine how much more fun it would be to travel to the places where you can put your skills to the test. With over 7,000 languages spoken throughout the world, adding at least one more to your personal linguistic range seems like a smart idea.
How about you? Is your child interested in learning a second language or are they hesitant? Is your household already bilingual? What tips can you offer to second language learners? We would love to hear from you in the comments!
Author: Amanda Hutson, Curriculum Assistant at A Grade Ahead