bilingual benefits

Why learn a second language?

An opinion article by Gretchen Busl, an assistant professor of English at Texas Woman’s University, explores the reasons behind why students should learn a second language in school. Rather than concentrating on an ultimate goal of fluency, which many may not obtain, a more universal reason for foreign language acquisition is to expand one’s horizons, recognizing that there is a bigger world out there than just his or her backyard. While the majority of students may not regularly use their second language later as an adult or in the workplace, there are numerous other traits they acquire. These are traits present even in the first days of language learning.

Introductory language study has been shown to promote attributes including:

·         creativity

·         critical thinking and problem solving

·         communication and ability to participate on a team-level

“To compensate for a limited vocabulary, students must develop their ability to read context clues, to improvise, and to rely on visual communication– vital skills, no matter the language.” – Busl, Is Fluency the Goal of Language Learning?
kids-learn-about-world.jpg

These are abilities ultimately needed for any area of employment. Simultaneously, studying foreign language helps others identify and respect both cultural similarities and differences. Busl ends with stating that all students planning to work in a global economy should be obligated to learn a second language, as while studying this, “they understand there is more than one way to see the world - and therefore more than one way to solve a problem.”

In 2011, California became the first state to pass legislation for the Seal of Biliteracy, creating an award in recognition of students who have gained proficiency in two or more languages by high school graduation. At the time of this article, 33 states and Washington DC have approved a statewide Seal of Biliteracy. It is hoped that the rest of the United States continues to follow in these footsteps, providing ongoing encouragement to any student wishing to pursue foreign language study.

Sources:

http://thehill.com/blogs/congress-blog/education/241110-is-fluency-the-goal-of-language-learning: Accessed 09/11/18

https://sealofbiliteracy.org/faq/: Accessed 09/11/18

Photo by Lonely Planet on Unsplash

By Alexis Dallara-Marsh

Foreign Language Learning in the U.S. versus Europe

This past week, data from the Pew Research Center highlights the discrepancy between language learning in the United States compared to that in Europe. An average of 92% of the European population is taught a foreign language at a young age, compared to only 20% in America. The reasons for this may be multi-faceted, including: 

1. English is frequently spoken throughout the world as compared to most of the European languages. 

English is described as the language of globalization. There is not as much pressure for American students to have to learn a foreign language if in many places English is regularly spoken. This is in contrast to other parts of the world, where one can very often expect to be greeted in a different language in a neighboring country. Even within a single European country itself, there may be more than one language as a country's official language. In Europe, it is common to study even more than one foreign language, with this being required in school for at least a year in over 20 European countries.

2. There's no uniform standard for foreign language acquisition in schools in the U.S.

National standards for test-taking in Europe incorporate the importance of foreign language acquisition. On the other hand, no such national standard exists in the U.S., where requirements are generally set at the state or district level. In the United States, the rates of foreign language study vary to as low as single-digit percentiles in some states. Even the higher percentages of states mandating foreign language study lag behind the countries with the lowest percentages in Europe.  

3. Timeframe for learning a foreign language in Europe versus the U.S. is generally different.

In Europe, students often begin studying their first foreign language in school between the ages of 6 and 9, in contrast to the United States where foreign language is typically not taught until at least Middle School or High School. Multiple studies have shown that language acquisition is overall easier the younger one is.

Many prominent voices stress the importance of foreign language acquisition. Memoirist Eva Hoffman described loss of multilingualism as "the loss of a living connection". Studies increasingly display the importance of  "cultural intelligence" in our increasingly globalized society. As the Livni article summarizes for the importance of learning another language:

It’s a window on to a new worldview, a way to understand how our fellow humans think.
— Ephrat Livni

As parents, probably one of the greatest gifts we can give our children is the gift of being able to communicate in a second language. Why not give your children a subscription to the #1 learning program for foreign language for kids, Little Pim? Subscription plans are available for a single language as well as the option to access all 12 of our included languages. Experience the wonders of a gift that can last a lifetime.


Sources: Devlin, Kat. Most European students are learning a foreign language in school while Americans lag. Available at: http://www.pewresearch.org/fact-tank/2018/08/06/most-european-students-are-learning-a-foreign-language-in-school-while-americans-lag/: Accessed 08/13/18.

Livni, Ephrat. Only 20% of US kids study a language in school—compared to 92% in Europe. Available at: https://qz.com/1350601/foreign-languages-are-studied-by-just-20-of-kids-in-the-us/: Accessed 08/13/18.

By Alexis Dallara-Marsh

Why Bilingualism is Crucial to Your Child's Future

bilingualism-child-future

The world is getting smaller and smaller. Jet liners, bullet trains, the internet and new international markets are blurring the lines on our old maps. Our future is changing. The world that our children grow into isn't going to be the one of ours or our parents. That's why it's time to take the future seriously. Parents, grandparents and teachers need to put on their "game faces" and have a serious talk about bilingualism.

When a child is bilingual, their mind opens up to an entirely new world. We know that in this ever-changing global economy, those fluent in more than one language have better odds at a brighter future. The United States has seen a rapid change in language and culture over the last century that has facilitated the growth of professional bilingualism in the public and private sectors.

To put it into layman's terms: bilingualism = jobs.

Translators have always been an important component at every level of government and business. But translating isn't the only profession that requires the mastery of another language. Today, educators and medical professionals often find themselves in situations that require the use of a language other than their native tongue.

Complex global affairs have caused leaders to identify a need for bilingual talent within the government. Corporate outsourcing has increased the amount of multilingual interactions in the business world. Many nations around the world are rising as economic superpowers - such as Russia, China, and India - and to learn the languages of such nations increases the desirability of any potential hire.

You must be wondering...how are these things relevant to my child now? 

Foreign language careers are on the rise. When your bright-eyed three-year old graduates from college, she'll enter into a job market in which multilingualism is a highly sought after skill. Research done by Korn/Ferry International stated that over 66% of North American recruiters felt that being bilingual would become extremely important over the next 10 years. Today, many HR departments require eligible candidates to be bilingual. If you look on any job posting website, you will likely see hundreds of jobs - even part-time work - that require bilingual candidates.

Language learning should start young. Adults can learn languages, but as our brains mature they tend to over-analyze. This makes it incredibly difficult for many adults to pick up a second language. Young children don't have this problem. According to a study at MIT, children go through a "sensitive period" for language learning that lasts until puberty. Between birth and five years of age, the human brain is hard-wired for learning multiple languages*. After age five, this critical window begins to close and it gets much harder to acquire a new language and a good accent.*

Language learning is proven to "feed the mind." Learning another language gives kids an educational edge over monolingual peers. Longitudinal studies at Harvard suggested that language learning "increases critical thinking skills, creativity, and flexibility in children." Speaking more than one language can help kids with planning and problem solving. It also helps children with attention and cognition. According to Psychology Today, children in bilingual environments perform better on standardized tests and have better academic performance in general.

To give your kids a leg up in a competitive educational environment as well as the job market, it's imperative that language immersion starts now.

Getting your child started in language learning can give them the skills they need for a secure future. At Little Pim, we're here to help you through that journey by giving you the tools that you need. If you have questions about how Little Pim could benefit your child, or about the benefits of language learning, don't hesitate to contact us or comment below today.

Being Bilingual Can Improve All Areas of Your Child's Life

bilingual-kids

We live in an increasingly global world where learning a second language can give your child many advantages. Learning a foreign language at an early age improves overall fluency, but the issue is that most schools do not offer the opportunity to learn a second language until high school. According to Forbes magazine, we have a "foreign language deficit" in our country, especially when we are compared to other countries. Overseas, most countries require their students to learn English as a second language from a young age. When researching the benefits of bilingualism, it seems that the pros are endless; speaking more than one language can improve social skills, school performance, emotional health, and so much more. With all of the positives that come from being bilingual, it's a wonder that more young children are not being raised bilingual.

Learning a Second Language Improves School Performance

According to a study performed by Stanford researchers on language, the language children are exposed to in infancy and early childhood has a massive impact on their academic abilities and ability to communicate later in life. The best way to set your child up for success is to teach them both their native language, alongside a foreign language, during the critical period between infancy and six years old. Bilingual children have been proven to score higher on tests throughout their entire school career.

Speaking Multiple Languages Improves Social Skills

multilingual-baby

In a piece exploring the superior social skills of bilingual children by Katherine Kinzler, published in the New York Times, she found that children who are bilingual or multilingual have an easier time understanding different perspectives. This is because they have to understand when to speak a certain language, and to whom. This greatly improves their ability to communicate and empathize with people from all different walks of life. For more information about this study, check out our blog post on "Raising a People Person."

Bilingual Children Tend To Be More Creative

According to a study performed by the University of Strathclyde’s School of Psychological Sciences and Health, children who speak two languages statistically scored higher when it came to creative thinking and problem solving. Bilingual children scored much higher than monolingual children all across the board, in fact; especially when it came to questions assessing their critical thinking skills. In other words, bilingual children's ability to think outside the box helped them eventually work out answers to questions that they otherwise may not have been able to answer.

It Can Even Improve Emotional Health

Language plays a large role in our emotional health, because it is the only way we can articulate our deepest feelings, whether we choose to write them in a journal or discuss them with friends and family members. The ability to express their emotions in more than one language offers children more opportunity to talk to more people; it's also a good way to vent their emotions when around those who are monolingual. Also, when observed in school, bilingual children showed a better ability to pay attention and exhibit inhibitory control. It has been shown that bilingual children tend to have better relationships with their teachers and peers as well. Those early experiences with teachers and friends are vital to a child's emotional health and social development; teaching your child a second language can help ensure those interactions will be positive ones.

Cultural Curiosity and Tolerance

Bilingual children often have a natural curiosity about the country from which their second language originated. From a very young age, they have also been shown to be more tolerant of other cultures; they play more easily with children who come from different socioeconomic backgrounds, they are more likely to engage in play with children who do not speak their language, and they show more of an interest in socializing outside of their usual social circles. Since our world is becoming more globalized every day, the ability to tolerate and show interest in other cultures is an important advantage.

The Benefits Are Endless

There are endless benefits to teaching your child a second language from an early age - this article has only covered a small handful of the advantages your child will get through becoming bilingual! If you would like to introduce your child to a new language, try out Little Pim for free by watching a demo video to get started as soon as possible!

New Brain Studies Indicate Early Childhood is the Best Time to Learn a New Language

It's proven that the best time to learn a new language is under the age of 6. New studies from the University of Washington's Institute for Learning and Brain Sciences indicate "the notion that not only are very young children capable of learning multiple languages, but that early childhood is the optimum time for them to begin."

In the video below, research scientist and the study's lead author, Naja Ferjan Ramirez summarizes the results from the brain studies performed on sixteen 11-month-old babies, half raised in bilingual homes and the other half in monolingual homes:

[iframe id="https://www.youtube.com/embed/TAYhj-gekqw" align="center" autoplay="no"]

Our results suggest that before they even start talking, babies raised in bilingual households are getting practice at tasks related to executive function. This suggests that bilingualism shapes not only language development, but also cognitive development more generally, said Ramirez.

It's amazing to see the results from the brain-recording technique used in the study called magnetoencephalography. "The brains of bilingual babies were specialized to process the sounds of both languages, Spanish and English. The brains of babies from monolingual families were specialized to process the sounds of English and were not sensitive to Spanish," says Ramirez. No surprise there!

What's more interesting is that as early as 11 months old, we're able to see that the bilingual brains showed increased activity in areas related to executive functioning. According to The Center on The Developing Child at Harvard University, when children have the opportunity to develop cognitive skills early on, individuals and society experience lifelong benefits.

Executive function and self-regulation skills are the mental processes that enable us to plan, focus attention, remember instructions, and juggle multiple tasks successfully....Providing the support that children need to build these skills at home, in early care and education programs, and in other settings they experience regularly is one of society’s most important responsibilities.

Are you ready to teach your little ones a new language? Check out the research behind our method to learn more about how we integrate scientific studies like these to help kids effectively learn languages, both native and foreign.

Foreign Languages for Kids Limited Time Offer! Save 20% on Little Pim with code KIDS