Why teach your children foreign languages?

babel babies language acquisition Aug 22, 2012
Bilingual babies bisous

I’ve just read an interesting article about the benefits of teaching foreign languages to our children. It was written by a lady who has moved her entire family to France in order to pursue their language goals!

Whilst we can’t all move to France and immerse ourselves in their language and culture for several years like this lucky family, we can take on board some of the writer’s ideas.

1) Learning languages is good for our brains*

(*note, I first wrote this blog in 2012 and the research is more nuanced now... visit this page to read more about the science!)

Research into bilingualism sometimes* shows that babies’ brains develop more flexibility when they speak two or even three languages from an early age. The left and right sides of the brain work better together and this aids maths, creative thinking and problem-solving as well as language acquisition. I can already see Dylan flipping through his mental multilingual picture book when we read familiar stories in different languages. He doesn’t mind if we jump from French to Italian to German and back to English as long as we’re reading. Okay, so he currently says farfalla instead of butterfly but it won’t be long until he knows both words, which can only be a good thing.

2) Learning languages gives us a sense of achievement

My baby-soaked brain couldn’t be happier than when I’ve got my Italian CD on in the car and I’m learning a new construction (today it was directions like la stazione è di fronte alla piazza). It takes me several listens to move forwards these days but I know the language is there in my head and I’m pleased when I remember it. Even little Arwen knows Humpty Dumpty and anticipates jumping off my knees with a big grin when I say “fell off a wall”. If she can recall and take pride in this at 18 weeks, imagine what a great sense of achievement the older ones feel when they learn a song in a foreign language. Seeing the light of recognition in the children’s eyes is what first made me want to go into teaching, and it’s even better when it’s my own kids who have that ‘Yay! I’ve learned something!’ smile.

3) Learning languages is fun

Learning French has allowed me to work in Paris, make lots of lovely friends, watch Amélie Poulain (my favourite film) without subtitles and laugh at the cunning jokes, get a discount off an amazing cardigan I couldn’t afford on my student budget, eat spectacular food in restaurants that don’t translate their menu for tourists, and listen to live slam poets jamming (in French) without getting lost in translation. Also, Dylan thinks the German number fünf is utterly hilarious. There are lots of grand academic, emotional, social and cultural reasons for learning languages, but my top reason is that it’s good to have fun! It’s a fun process learning with your kids and the end product (speaking a few or lots of new words) opens the door to even more fun.

This is why the Babel Babies ethos is about having a good time and enjoying the songs with our babies, rather than learning in a formal environment.

See you soon! A bientôt!

Cate x

Intrigued about learning languages with your little ones? Check out our online language lessons for kids here.

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