How Learning a Second Language Can Unlock a Child's Potential
Updated: Jul 25
From the day I was born, I was constantly exposed to two different languages, and to this day, I’m still reaping the benefits (thanks mom and dad). At home, I was taught Spanish as it was my family’s native language. Beyond our home, in a small suburban town in NJ, all I heard was English. If only I knew then the true benefits of acquiring multiple languages at a young age, I would have picked up Mandarin too. Heck, I would have aimed for three more languages! As science and my first-hand experience can attest, the benefits of learning a second language at a young age are countless. Here I compiled a list of the top 5 benefits; some I even recently learned about.
1. Learning Advantage
Research has found that the degree of success in acquiring a second language declines with age. A child’s mind is commonly compared to a sponge, and this can’t be truer when acquiring new languages. It is significantly easier for a child to have a native pronunciation of words compared to an adult.
Recently, I have been trying to learn French and although I am already bilingual, it has been very difficult for me. French pronunciation is vastly different compared to English and Spanish. As an adult, it is quite difficult for me to not sound like an American on vacation. However, I do recognize that it is easier for me to read French because French and Spanish are both derived from the Latin language. I do regret not starting to learn at a younger age though.
2. Better Memory
According to several studies, children who acquire a second language, have a better memory than those who only speak one language. In a particular study done by Julia Morales, they found that children who knew more than one language worked faster and more accurately. As a child actively remembers words in several languages, the brain is continuously being strengthened as it stores and retrieves double (or triple) the words.
Such skill has come in handy throughout my lifetime. From schoolwork to street directions to phone numbers, good memory skills are more than practical in any situation.
3. Better Standardized Test Scores
The College Board has reported that bilingual students consistently score higher on standardized tests in comparison to their peers that only know one language, specifically in the math, reading, and vocabulary sections. Even third graders who had received 15 minutes of conversational French lessons daily for a year had statistically higher SAT scores than their peers who had not received French classes.
Why is this? Well according to science, not only does a bilingual person think faster than a monolingual, but they also read more efficiently. For anyone that has taken a standardized test before, speed and efficiency are two crucial skills needed to get good scores. Knowing a second language also improves your understanding of your native language. You begin to compare the grammatical rules of one language to the next and notice similarities or differences to your native language. When I took the SAT years ago, I was able to score in the top 10 percentile with moderate effort. I know this is not exactly the case for all bilingual children, but I know I would have had to study more if I didn’t have the advantage of being bilingual.
4. More Career Opportunities
Our world economy and society are now more interconnected than ever before. With advances in technology, communication, and travel across the globe have never been easier. Hence, knowing more than one language has become almost a norm amongst job candidates and a requirement for a lot of jobs. I can personally and proudly say that my bilingual skills have landed me several jobs. My application is more competitive than a monolingual with the same credentials. Employers view such skill as an asset and sometimes a necessity depending on the field. I can communicate with twice as many people who can translate to potential clients.
5. Broader Appreciation for Different Cultures and More Friends(yay!)
As our world becomes more connected, it is crucial to be accepting of different cultures. By learning a new language at a young age, you gain insight into a different culture and learn to appreciate the differences. Not only do you learn how to communicate, but you get a better understanding of the people and history behind the words. Then, when you encounter someone who speaks that language, you can become friends easier. I love befriending people from all over the world. Learning about their customs changes my perspective and broadens my lens of the world.
Parents are the key to unlocking their child’s potential. I am extremely grateful for the opportunities my parents have set me up for from just teaching me our native language. Many families fear that their child may get confused and not learn as well if they are exposed to a second language, but science has proved otherwise. Parents should motivate their kids to learn a new language. The best and most efficient way to learn a new language is by being completely immersed by it. In the time I spent two weeks in France, I learned more French than I did in the previous four years of studying it from books. Such a concept is what Einstein Studios is founded upon. The Spanish courses are designed to immerse the student in a Spanish inspired virtual city–reaping the benefits of traveling from the safety of their home.
(Julia Morales, Alejandra Calvo, Ellen Bialystok (2013). “Working memory development in monolingual and bilingual children“.)
Stocco, A., Yamasaki, B. L., Natalenko, R., & Prat, C. S. “Bilingual brain training: A neurobiological framework of how bilingual experience improves executive function.” International Journal of Bilingualism.