I am honored to have Judy Martialay, award winning author of Bonjour! Let’s Learn French: Visit New Places and Make New Friends and Hola! Let’s Learn Spanish: Visit New Places and Make New Friends, guest posting here today to share her knowledge of the language advantage with all of you! As a parent whose son is learning both Mandarin and Spanish, this post really resonated with me and I love what she has to say! But, before we get to her post, I wanted to tell you a little about Judy and her background so you can see that she really knows what she’s talking about!
Judy was born in Mount Vernon, New York, and received a BA from Mount Holyoke College and MA from Columbia University. She taught world or foreign languages in elementary school, middle and high school. During and after retirement, she devoted time to public advocacy for foreign language education with the New York State Association of Foreign Language Teachers. Her dream is to give all children the opportunity to experience a foreign language, as early as possible.
Now that you know a little about Judy’s background, on to her insightful post!
YOUR CHILD AND THE LANGUAGE ADVANTAGE
Moms and Dads, give your child the language advantage! Providing an early start learning a foreign language is a gift that will have life-time benefits.
What are the advantages of being proficient in another language?
Knowing another language will open the door to another culture, another way of seeing life, and will give your child access to millions of people, and the chance to form personal and business relationships around the world. Bilinguals have greater career opportunities; an appreciation for another culture which can lead to a wider acceptance to diversity and tolerance. Bilinguals are more comfortable in the global society. Students of another language develop better problem solving and critical thinking skills, better memory and multitasking. They have a better understanding of their native language. Much later in life, bilinguals have the ability to stave off the onset of dementia by up to five years.
Why start early?
You can learn a language at any age, but children have more time to master the complexities of a language, to acquire a marketable skill, and can benefit more completely from the cognitive advantages of being bilingual.
Children are “wired” to learn language naturally. I often hear that “children absorb languages like sponges”. Their brains are flexible enough to accept other ways of saying and doing things. Also, children have the ability to pronounce the sounds of another language like natives. The best time to begin learning another language is as early as possible.
Which language should my child learn?
Regardless of the choice of language, your child will gain the same benefits. Some families may want their children to learn the language of their ancestors, so they can communicate with relatives in the country of origin. In the U.S., students of Spanish will have many opportunities to hear and use the language. French is at the heart of Western European cultures, and France is the most visited country in the world. Also, it is spoken in many African countries. Mandarin Chinese and Arabic may take longer to learn, but there is a great need for speakers of these languages, and for other uncommonly taught languages, such as Japanese, Urdu and Portuguese for business and national security. The number of students of Mandarin is growing; in my school district, all children begin Manadarin in Kindergarten. [OK, I bolded this for emphasis because I just think this is so awesome!]
I can’t speak the language. What can I do?
The best way that you can encourage your child to learn a language is to learn it yourself!
Find a book or a program that you both can enjoy, and have fun using the language at home. This way you send the message to your child that language learning is valuable.
If you are fortunate enough to have a foreign language program in your local elementary school, you can encourage your child by learning, or reviewing, some of the language. If there are no programs in your school, be sure to ask the Board of Education to implement these classes. Every child in our country should have the same opportunities that children have around the world.
Talk to your child about the advantages of learning the language. A great way to encourage your child is to find someone, a friend, member of the family, a neighbor, who is a native speaker and is willing to speak the language with your child. It’s even better if you can find a native speaker who is the same age as your child. There are services which provide pen-pals, and don’t forget Skype. YouTube and the Internet have great resources for learning languages.
For more information about Judy and her books, or to follow her, visit:
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