Friday, 20 December 2013

Why learning a language is important


Did you know that ... scientists have proven that people who speak two languages are better at multitasking and can hold back Alzheimer's for about five years?  There is also evidence that people who are bilingual have stronger communication and cognitive skills.  Being bilingual gives the brain a good workout and strengthens its muscles, enabling an individual to focus on tasks for longer, ignore distractions and retain information more effectively.   These same advantages can be developed by learning a second language.

In much of Europe languages are introduced to children at an earlier age than in the UK.  However, Welsh and English are taught successfully in Wales.  Though you are never too old to learn a new language the main advantage of learning a language at an early age is confidence.  Young children tend to not feel inhibited or threatened by languages.  They are constantly playing/ exploring their own language and having fun with it and even invent their own words.  As very young children they are constantly mimicking words and phrases that they hear and they learn their own language extremely quickly. 

Learning a language also gives opportunities to develop skills in other curriculum areas. Confidence in speaking and communication with others develops as well as good listening skills.   Songs, poems, rhymes and stories from around the world in other languages that can develop listening and comprehension skills are easily found on you tube and other search engines.  (Many of these stories also have a moral element too).  The internet has many free resources and materials that can support your child and you in learning a second language.  What may not be obvious is that your child's maths skills could also benefit from learning another language, for example, through counting, using different currencies, and through learning dates and times.  Of course there are also the cultural, geographical and historical aspects that are developed through learning about different countries.  

Learning a language can be a rewarding whole family activity. Through learning a second (or even third) language we can develop our understanding of our own language and culture as well as developing an awareness of different countries and cultures.  In an increasingly globalised world the benefits of speaking other languages are invaluable.  This is perhaps best expressed in the words of Nelson Mandela;
"If you talk to a man in a language he understands, that goes to his head.  If you talk to him in his own language that goes to his heart." 

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