Learn a Foreign Language Month

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December has been deemed “Learn a Foreign Language Month” and with that, we felt compelled to dedicate a blog post to this topic!  With adopted children that come from non-English speaking countries, it is obvious that the children will need to learn the new language of English.  However, as comfort and dedication to them, it may be a good idea to try to learn their language as well!  Having a small knowledge base of basic vocabulary will not only help you when in-country, but during the adoption process as well!

When a child comes to the US without knowledge of the language, it is up to us as parents to be their advocate and to help them learn as much as they can properly.  Depending on the school system that they will be attending or the homeschool program that they will be participating in will help you decide “how” to help your child learn.  In addition to the immersion that will take place organically, the additional classes will help with pronunciation and the finer details.  Before the child comes home, it would be wise to look into your available resources.  Some schools offer the English as a Second Language classes while some do not.  It is important to note that if your school does not offer the classes and it is a public school, they must make an available plan for you.  I personally had to make calls all the way up the ladder to the Michigan School Board in Lansing to get the help that my boys needed as the small school that they attended was not helpful initially with the classes.  Eventually, they worked with us for a solution but I definitely had to be their advocate.  Often times, local community colleges offer the class as well if the child is old enough to attend.  

For families that have decided to homeschool or if you are looking to learn a language yourself, there are many resources available to purchase and learn.  Such programs include but are not limited to:  Rosetta Stone, DuoLingo, Pimsleur and Babbel.  

Learning a foreign language has many benefits and it is encouraged that all individuals try to learn another language if at all possible.  According to the Eton Institute, the following benefits can be enjoyed by the student:

1. Boosts Brain Power

A foreign language is a whole new intricate system of rules, structures, and lexis. Learning a new language means your brain has to cope with complexity as it makes sense of and absorbs new patterns. As our brains work out the meaning, endeavoring to communicate, we develop key learning skills such as cognitive thinking and problem-solving. Highly developed critical thinking skills are a significant benefit both personally and professionally.

2. Improves Memory

Use it or lose it. How many times have you heard that phrase? It is a simple fact – the more the brain is used, the better its functions work. A new language requires not only familiarity with vocabulary and rules, but also being able to recall and apply this knowledge. Learning a language gives your memory a good work out in the brain gym. This means that multilingual people have brains that are more exercised and quick to recall names, directions, facts, and figures.

3. Enhances The Ability To Multi-Task

Multi-tasking is very stressful for those who are not used to it or don’t do it well. According to a study from the Pennsylvania State University, people who are multilingual and proficient at slipping from one language system to another are practiced at this very demanding work for the brain. People who have developed the ability to think in different languages and move from one to the other become much better multi-taskers, reducing stress levels.

4. Sharpens The Mind

A study from Spain’s University of Pompeu Fabra revealed that multilingual people are better at observing their surroundings. They easily spot anything that is irrelevant or deceptive. They’re also better at spotting misleading information. The study was conducted comparing multilingual and monolingual subjects and the former notably had the edge. Is it any surprise that famous, fictional detective characters such as Sherlock Holmes and Hercule Poirot are skilled linguists?

5. Keeps The Mind Sharper For Longer

Several studies have been conducted on this topic, and the results are consistent. Language learning keeps your brain healthy. For monolingual adults, the mean age for the first signs of dementia is 71.4. For adults who speak two or more languages, the mean age for those first signs is 75.5. Studies considered factors such as education level, income level, gender, and physical health, but the results were consistent.

6. Enhances Decision-Making

According to a study from the University of Chicago, decision-making ability becomes an easier process for multilingual people. Aside from the rules and vocabulary that go with learning a foreign language, there are nuances and regional expressions that a student of language frequently judges for appropriateness and hidden meanings. Multilinguals are more confident in their decision-making choices as a result of practice, practice, practice!

7. The First Language Is Improved

Learning a new language makes you more conscious of the nuts and bolts of your own language. Terms such as vocabulary, grammar, conjugation, comprehension, idioms and sentence structure become everyday phrases, whereas your own language is probably absorbed more intuitively. Learning a new language also makes you a better listener as you are used to having to interpret meaning and judge nuances.

8. Improves Performance In Other Academic Areas

As a result of higher cognitive skills, studies show that the benefits of learning a new language include higher scores on standardized exams in math, reading comprehension and vocabulary by multilingual students compared to the scores of monolingual students. Children may ask why they have to learn this language, but parents and teachers know better! Language skills boost your ability to do well in problem-solving tasks across the board, a fact recognized through compulsory foreign language learning curriculum in schools.

9. Increases Networking Skills

Opening up to a culture allows you to be more flexible and appreciative of other people’s opinions and actions. As a result, if you are multilingual, you have the advantage of seeing the world from different viewpoints, enhancing your ability to communicate in today’s globally connected world.

10. Provides Better Career Choices

According to Eton Institute’s Language Development in the Workforce survey (September 2014), 89% of our clients stated that multilingual employees add value to the workforce and 88% stated that recruiting team members with language skills is important to their organization. A multilingual ability is definitely a competitive edge in today’s world.

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