Why Teach Young Children a New Language?

Now, more than during any other point in history, people across the world are afforded many opportunities to embrace their interests and preferences–no matter how different from popular culture or their upbringing those passions may seem. However, as tolerant and open as the United States grows to racial, ethnic, or personal differences, people of diverse backgrounds still encounter significant growing pains as they adjust to embrace who they are while helping others understand new levels of diversity.

Those growing pains were what inspired Sunny Lu to create KaiBan, an educational platform that teaches children about Chinese culture, tradition, and language through engaging content and interactive experiences. Having immigrated to America when she was only three years old, Sunny struggled to navigate being vastly different from her peers both in her home country of Taiwan and in her new home in the US. She vividly remembers the toll it took on her confidence and social experiences as a child so Sunny created KaiBan to help ease that journey for not only her son, Auggie, but also for children across the country who are seeking acceptance.

At KaiBan, education is a direct pathway toward inclusivity, so we teach the Chinese culture and Chinese language to young children to celebrate differences and create inclusion.

However, teaching children about other cultures through the exploration of new languages offers more benefits than a future where diversity is innately embraced. Here are 10 reasons to teach your child a new language:

  1. Improved English Language Arts Skills: Although time spent learning another language is centered on the structure of that new language, the student’s native tongue is often a comparison used to drive understanding. Students begin learning through an introduction to that language’s vocabulary, grammar, and sentence structure. Concepts like understanding the importance of sentence structure in foreign languages indirectly increase consciousness of similar rules, in a student’s first language, that are often forgotten as they grow to master it. While before students may not have held the acute understanding to explain the abstract rules and language structure of their native language, learning a new one helps put names and theories to what they once learned instinctively. Students ultimately become aware of the differences in structure, vocabulary, grammar, idioms, and sentence structure between the two languages. All of these factors improve comprehension and conversation and can make for a more articulate writer and conversationalist.
  2. Improved Brain Functionality: Studies show that each side of the human brain is responsible for different functions. Those who are left-brain-dominant possess strong logical and analytical capacities. Those who are right-brain-dominant possess strong creative and emotional capacity. However, when learning a new language, students use both sides of their brains. While the left side of the brain is primarily responsible for language acquisition, the right side of the brain plays a critical role in helping learners identify the basic sounds associated with a language. A study by Georgetown University’s Medical Centre found that bilingual people have more gray matter and preserved white matter in the brain. Gray matter is responsible for sensation processing, perception, voluntary movement, learning, speech, and cognition. While white matter is responsible for helping you process information quickly. Bilingual people also tend to have stronger short-term memory, problem-solving skills, and attention management when compared to those who only speak one language.
  3. Reduced Cognitive Decline: The impact of aging is a reality every person faces as they grow. While those impacts are a long way away for our little ones, parents tend to leverage a loving foresight as they set plans for their children’s lives. Exposing our little ones to a second language can protect them from negative impacts that arise later in life like cognitive decline. Acquiring a new language staves off cognitive deficits that arise later in life such as Alzheimer’s and dementia when compared to those who only speak one language. According to Neurology Journal, acquiring new languages was more impactful in decreasing cognitive decline than other factors such as health, economic status, educational level, and gender. While the brain works to keep up with a new language’s intricacies and patterns, new developments manifest in the brain. The more it’s put to use and the more tasks it manages at once, the stronger the brain grows. This brings us to the next benefit…
  4. Strengthened Multi-Tasking Skills: Students who explore a foreign language beyond simple exposure begin to build strong multi-tasking skills. Because their brain has to switch from one language to the other daily, students build a familiarity strong enough to trigger the mind into hearing or speaking words in one language while considering them in another. This skill begins to transfer to other applications in life. The National Institutes of Health ran a study that found that bilingual people switch tasks faster than monolinguals. They found that bilingual children, specifically, responded well to multiple tasks in comparison to their single-language counterparts.
  5. Expanded World View: This has to be one of KaiBan’s favorite benefits! Learning a foreign language isn’t only beneficial to brain function; it also influences an open mind. New language learners become familiar with the culture of the country in which that language is spoken. The more they learn about new cultures, the more they will look at the world around them from different perspectives. Welcoming different perspectives than that with which we are typically familiar will improve interpersonal understanding and acceptance of diversity. Since America is a melting pot of a variety of cultures, this is significantly important as people grow older and their interactions grow more intricate.
  6. Influences World Travel in the Future: As our children’s exposure to other cultures grows, so too will their interest in using the language they’ve learned alongside experiencing that culture, as well as others. As they grow older and begin to travel, having a strong command of other languages makes for more confident travelers. It strengthens their ability to engage with their new surroundings and it also increases their safety while traveling. And circling back to our conversations on positive impacts on the brain…Research at the University of California Davis also finds curiosity helps the brain remain more open to additional learning and this openness helps people remember new information and cement memories.
  7. Boosts Confidence: Speaking of confidence, one thing parents can identify with is the excitement and ego boost youngsters exhibit when they grasp a task that has been difficult for them. McGraw Hill found that Students’ perception of their confidence is correlated with their actual performance. As young children learn and use new skills, their overall confidence grows. With that boost comes a willingness to learn and attempt more new things–a, sometimes, daunting task for younger children.
  8. Increased Attention Span: As parents, a frequent job we may face is fortifying our children’s focus, and in the age of devices and subsequent device fatigue, that job is increasingly important. Learning a new language can help. Researchers suggest that learning a new language helps the brain maintain focus and block distractions. This is a result of regularly switching between languages. Recent studies show that the average attention span of a person has reduced from twelve seconds to eight seconds. Engaging children in programs, like KaiBan, exposes them to beginner exercises that activate these parts of the brain and strengthen the attention span. This means learning a second language can help combat the effects of ever-popular mobile devices and support focus in school, during home activities, and more.
  9. Educational Activity: Speaking of device usage, technology has permeated the children’s entertainment space so much that it has raised concerns. According to the National Institutes of Health, by six months of age, children in the US average approximately 1.25 hours of screen time. That study suggests that by age two, that average doubled to about 2.5 hours. Additionally, the CDC reports that youth ages 8 to 18 spend 7.5 hours in front of a screen for entertainment each day. KaiBan Kids serves as edutainment–satisfying children’s interest in mobile device interaction while also providing parents with the relief of knowing their child is learning.
  10. Future Job Marketability: We’ve touched on preparing our little learners for their future as adults just a bit, but this final reason is one that is widely supported. As the world grows increasingly connected, fluency in multiple languages also grows more desirable for employers. According to the National Institutes of Health, bilingual individuals may earn more than monolingual workers in the same industry and profession. Thus not only does multilingual capacity increase the competitive edge for your child’s future, it also increases earning potential.

If you are interested in strengthening your child’s confidence, skills, and an overall brighter future, taking a step toward fluency in a new language might be a strong option. If your little learner displays an interest in language or interactive learning, KaiBan is happy to support your family in those efforts.

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