Lifetime Advantages of Bilingualism

Bilingual-Children-300x182Language immersion programs are popping up all over the U.S., immersing children in Spanish, French, Chinese, Arabic, and more.  What’s fueling this demand?  A growing body of research shows that bilingualism gives children awesome lifetime benefits, regardless of the language!   Read on for some research results, plus some real-world examples from Spanish Schoolhouse students!

It’s a Small World

Anyone who has traveled to a foreign country without learning the language has probably at times wished they had!  The ability to speak and understand the local language provides a much richer travel experience than for someone who can’t interact as easily.  The ease of communicating with hotel and transportation staff, the enjoyment of chatting with locals in their own language, and the richer cultural understanding you get from taking in the conversations, media, and written language around you all enhance your appreciation for a new country.

It’s also clear that career opportunities multiply for multilingual employees.  As the interdependence of global communities grows, so does the need for people who can represent their organizations internationally and communicate confidently.  These employees often earn higher salaries because of the value they add to their organizations.

We know being bilingual opens doors to communication with more people, in more places, but beyond this, science shows it can give powerful lifetime advantages…

Focus, Memory, Creativity and More!  

One demonstrated benefit of bilingualism is enhanced cognitive skills, especially in the set of mental skills called “executive function.” These skills include paying attention, remembering details, switching focus, planning and organizing, and drawing on past experiences to decide how to respond to a particular challenge.  Bilinguals are better at creative problem-solving, paying focused attention without being distracted, and taking cues from their environment to make decisions. 

Immersion strengthens these skills every time a child switches languages depending on the situation and the person.  At Spanish Schoolhouse, it is not uncommon for children to chat with their parents in English, and then greet SSH staff in Spanish without missing a beat.  Sometimes a third language is spoken at home, and the student quickly learns to switch between the three, based on whom they are speaking with. 

Our students are also quick to identify other Spanish-speakers in public, and then jump right into a conversation!  A favorite SSH story involves one of our families that was traveling over the summer.  A flight had been canceled and a customer was upset and confused because she only spoke Spanish and could not make her wishes known.  Our little SSH student asked his parents if he could help.  He then went to the woman and offered to translate for her, helping her to resolve her dilemma!  What a priceless gift!

Student Success!

Bilingual students frequently outperform monolinguals, especially in the area of reading in their native language.  How interesting that learning a second language strengthens the first!  Studies have shown that bilingual students have higher test scores, increased happiness in school, better attendance, fewer behavioral problems, and higher parent involvement.

Surveys of former SSH students show that many are academically and socially advanced compared to their elementary peers!  We often hear from proud parents that their children love school because of the foundation they received at Spanish Schoolhouse. 

Brain Changes

Research shows that being bilingual from an early age can physically change the brain’s structure and increase brain activity. Bilingual people may have denser brain matter, especially in the left hemisphere which controls language and communication skills.  Other studies show that learning foreign languages can reduce age-related cognitive loss and delay the onset of dementia… a long term but awesome investment! 

At Spanish Schoolhouse, it is our mission and privilege to share in the joys of language learning every day with our preschoolers and Kindergarteners.  Parents today have countless choices for their children’s early education.  Language learning is a gift that will last your child a lifetime!

 

Sources:  Villano (1996); Cloud et al. (2000); Kovelman et al. (2008); Mechelli (2004); Bamford and Mizokawa (1991); Kovacs and Mehler (2009); Bialystok et al. (2013); Collier and Thomas.

 

So, what do you think?