Learning Spanish opened up my eyes to an entirely new world. It allowed me to discover the rich cultures of the people who speak it. It changed my life! So I knew that when I had kids, I wanted to give them the incredible gift of learning Spanish. I wanted them to have this new world open up to them as well. I hope you feel the same way about what an asset learning a language can be!
So why should you choose to raise your child to be bilingual? Bilingual people have so many advantages in the world! Researchers have found many benefits to being bilingual and biliterate. Here are ten amazing benefits of being bilingual that I hope will encourage you as you consider teaching your child another language.
1. Connect with more people
Being able to connect with more people is an incredible reason for anyone to learn another language. The ability to talk with someone in her own language is so very important for relationship building. Speaking a second language allows children to communicate with more people in their neighborhood, community, and throughout the world.
2. Gain a new perspective
Learning another language gives kids the opportunity to learn about new cultures and ways of life. Speaking another language exposes us to the traditions, religions, art, and history of the people who speak that language. This helps us gain an appreciation for others and their cultures, and can increase our respect and empathy for others. Studies show that children who have studied another language are more open toward and express more positive attitudes toward the culture associated with that language. (ACTFL)
3. Cognitive benefits
Bilingual people are constantly switching from one language to another in their minds, which results in cognitive benefits. This helps bilingual children to be effective in tasks that involve problem solving and critical thinking. People who speak more than one language also have better listening skills, can monitor changes in their environment better than monolinguals, and have improved concentration. Bilinguals also have enhanced memory and show signs of greater flexibility and creativity. (NCBI)
4. Better literacy skills
Biliteracy is the ability to read and write in two or more languages. Research shows that bilingual children are able to develop stronger literacy skills if they can learn to read in both languages they speak. In a meta-analysis evaluating reading growth in bilingual students, studies showed that children in bilingual classrooms saw greater gains than children in English-only classrooms. (Waterford)
Another study found that dual language (a type of immersion program with equal instruction in English and a second language) students outperformed their monolingual peers on state reading tests. (Rand) Bilingual kids have also been shown to start reading earlier in both languages than their monolingual peers! (NCBI)
5. Improve the first language
Research shows that when kids learn a second language, they learn important aspects of their own language that they otherwise might not have learned. Learning a second language gives new perspective on the first one and on language in general. This increases appreciation of language and the ability to communicate. Studies have shown that language learners transfer their skills from one language to another. And students who learn a second language often have increased vocabulary in English. (ACTFL)
6. Travel the world
Bilinguals can learn about new places and experience them more fully when they speak the local language. Speaking the language of the place where they’re visiting allows them to navigate more easily, and interact with the people and places more fully. Learning a second language also opens the door for studying or working abroad!
7. Career opportunities
One-half to two-thirds of adults around the world speak at least two languages. In today’s global society, a child who grows up bilingual will have many advantages in adulthood. Bilingual and biliterate people have significantly more job opportunities than monolinguals. (NCELA)
8. Raise bilingual kids
Speaking another language means that someday bilinguals can choose to raise their own kids bilingually. What a gift to continue through the generations – especially if the second language is a heritage language that keeps the family connected to their culture and history.
9. Ready for a third language
What if a child would like to add a third language later on? The more languages a person learns, the easier it becomes. Studies show that bilingual people gain an aptitude for languages, and have an easier time if they choose to learn a third language. (Science Daily)
10. Lifetime benefits
Being bilingual will have a lasting impact throughout a person’s life. Bilingual people have been shown to maintain their mental health for longer. Learning a second language can protect the brain against Alzheimer’s disease. Brain studies have shown that bilingual people’s brains function better and for longer after developing the disease. On average, bilingual people had the disease delayed by four years compared to monolinguals. (Michigan State University)
I hope these incredible benefits encourage you to take the leap to teach your children a second language. Or to continue your hard work in raising them to be bilingual! It is so worth it. Of course, there are many more benefits to being bilingual – these are just my top ten. If you’re a non-native Spanish speaker like me, check out my top ideas for continuing to practice and improve your Spanish as an adult.
Read more about second language learning in my posts: