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Benefits and Techniques of Teaching Children a Second Language

One of the reasons on our very long list of why we love our son’s Montessori school is because it has Spanish interwoven into its curriculum in a very natural, everyday manner.  I have been thrilled to have my son share his Spanish with me (especially since I minored in the language in college), but his exposure to other languages has seemed to also prompt his interest in other cultures, in trying out new sounds, and has changed the way he views the world.  My younger son has picked up a few of the words as well, and both of my boys enjoying using their American Sign Language to communicate with each other and with us.

I personally cannot emphasize enough how important I feel it is for children to learn a second language, and the experts agree.  In the article “Raising Bilingual Kids: Benefits and Techniques” on PhD in Parenting, the author cites the American Council on the Teaching of Foreign Language as stating that learning a foreign language has broad cognitive benefits, such as the development of problem solving abilities, memory skills, reading abilities, and the ability to hypothesize in science and math.  Additionally, learning a foreign language correlates with higher academic achievement, including standardized tests and college level academic performance.  There seems to be an overall correlation between learning a second language and overall intelligence and open mindedness.

The article also gives some ideas of how to best expose your child to a second language:

  • If you or your partner speaks a second language, you are at a significant advantage.  You can implement a variety of approaches to expose your child to the language, such as:
    • One parent, one language – each of the parents chooses a language and speaks that language consistently with the child.
    • One place, one language – for example, the family might choose to always speak English at home and Spanish outside the home.
    • Parents speak foreign language only.
    • A mix of the above.

The author reminds us that for families who already speak more than one language know that the children will have a strong tendency to favor the community language of wherever you live.  However, your child will still benefit from all of the exposure to the second language, even if they decide not to speak it as much with you.

  • If no one in your home speaks a second language, there are plenty of ways you can give your child (and yourself) opportunities to learn, such as:
    • Foreign language school
    • Immersion programs
    • Weekend or evening classes
    • Learning with your child (there are fantastic resources on the internet for games and videos)
    • Vacations
    • Nanny or babysitter
    • Play dates, play groups, or playgrounds

The author goes into more details in her article, and does urge the reader to keep it fun and mix it up.  Using a variety of techniques will keep your child interested and reinforce the learning that has occurred.  For more ideas and tips about how your child learns, check out the Kidtelligent assessment!  Kidtelligent provides targeted tips and advice for dealing with challenges and situations that are unique to your child – including ideas from other parents. To learn more about Kidtelligent, go to www.kidtelligent.com, and follow us on Facebook at www.facebook.com/Kidtelligent.

Sarah is a guest blogger for Kidtelligent.  She is a soccer-playing, travel-loving, poetry-writing wife to a “go-getter” husband and mother to two high-spirited, sweet, and enthusiastic boys.  She is in the process of looking for a French class for her son – at his request.