Children have so much to learn in 13 short years. With math, English, science and social studies, they’re cramming a lot into their heads. So why should students take a foreign language?
Foreign languages open new worlds, new cultures and new cognitive abilities into the lives of children. The importance of studying a foreign language becomes clear in the benefits it delivers in academics, cultural awareness and career preparation.
Why Study a Foreign Language in School?
Why learn another language? The importance of foreign language education is everywhere. Although English is widely spoken worldwide, it is third in usage behind Chinese and Spanish. A global economy calls for people comfortable working across cultures and languages. Throughout the U.S., more and more people are multilingual, fluent in English and another language. They have an advantage because, increasingly, employers are looking for job candidates who can do business in multiple languages. In fact, knowing how to speak a foreign language can increase earnings by as much as 15 percent!
Not only that, but most selective colleges want to see at least two years of foreign language study on applications, and top-tier schools demand three or four years of foreign language study. These schools want to admit students who are ready to function in a global society.
1. Studying a Foreign Language Boosts Academic Achievement
Studying a foreign language in school is proven to boost test scores. Ironically, it even increases children’s abilities in their native language, meaning that studying Spanish, Mandarin or any other language improves scores in English language classes.
A long history of studies shows why students should learn a foreign language, through the linkage between foreign language and academic achievement. In these studies:
- Students who receive Spanish lessons score significantly higher in math and language tests.
- Second-language learners improve their test scores, think divergently, do well in their first language, and attract and maintain parental involvement in their studies.
- Learning another language significantly improves performance in reading comprehension, language mechanics and language expression.
- Taking time for foreign language instruction does not impede learning in math, English and social studies.
- Students whose English language skills improve as they take a foreign language also, by extension, improve their math skills.
- Students who study foreign languages make overall gains in word knowledge, reading, language, spelling, math concepts and social studies.
- Students who are immersed in two languages find it easier to interpret and comprehend written language than their monolingual peers, and they’re better at grammatical judgment and word recognition.
- Foreign language studies correlate to high SAT verbal scores. Foreign language study in high school can also lead to higher performance in college.
2. Foreign Language Skills Improve Cognitive Development
A child’s brain is a wonder, building itself into a complex machine capable of forming thoughts, generating ideas and regulating behavior. As scientists have shown, though, kids need enriching experiences to build this architecture, like the body’s muscles need workouts to become strong.
Studying a foreign language can expand brain capacity and build cognitive abilities, studies show. Elementary-age students who studied a foreign language scored significantly higher in their abilities to evaluate situations than their peers with no foreign language.
Another study showed that bilingual children built stronger coping skills, so they were better at processing verbal language and at organizing their thoughts in response to their perceptions.
Learning a second language can even improve memory skills and problem-solving abilities.
3. Studying Foreign Languages Creates New Opportunities
Studying a foreign language prepares children for future success by helping them develop into more well-rounded individuals. Initially, language classes teach students about cultures as well as linguistics. That’s because cultural norms, such as whether to say no directly or in polite but indistinct terms, are built into language. Through foreign language classes, students meet other people and their history, food, economies and values.
As they grow older, students can take advantage of their foreign language studies to travel to the places they’ve learned about. Through travel clubs, class trips and study abroad programs, students get to practice their language skills and experience the world, receiving a host of benefits.
- Expanding the comfort zone. It’s easy to get comfortable with a daily routine at home, but that doesn’t promote personal growth and resilience. Travel forces students into unfamiliar situations and teaches them to connect with people as they search for solutions.
- Building confidence: Travel can seem scary, but once a student arrives, they realize that they accomplished something great.
- Developing cultural sensitivity: As a global economy and internet connections tear down historical barriers between people, it’s more important than ever to understand the reasons behind cultural practices and traditions. Travel puts young people in situations where they see for themselves why cultures value the things they do.
- Adapting to globalization: Chances are, today’s students will be tomorrow’s global businesspeople and artists. Travel while still in high school or college looks great on a resume, telling employers this is an adventurous person who’s comfortable working across cultural and international boundaries.
What to Know About CCA Foreign Language Programs
CCA offers personalized learning plans, crafted according to the child’s strengths, passions, talents and challenges. A CCA education prepares students for life after high school graduation by introducing them to career options and real-world experiences. Put it all together, and the goal is developing children into college- and career-ready, competent adults, able to think and function independently and pursue their dreams.
Studying a foreign language ties into all those goals. By understanding and experiencing other cultures, CCA students expand their horizons to see a world of possibilities ahead. With the flexibility of online learning, our students can choose to study Arabic, Chinese, French, German, Japanese or Spanish at all grade levels. By middle school, they can combine their foreign language studies with other electives or high-level core courses that correspond with their talents and career interests. For instance, a budding foreign correspondent can take journalism and photography, or a future tech entrepreneur can take business and economics classes to learn the basics of the global economy. There are even high school internships and workplace programs that help students apply their skills and build experience in real-world settings.
Learn Foreign Languages at Commonwealth Charter Academy
An exciting world beckons to the youth of the 21st century. When they expand their understanding of it through study of language and cultures, they are better prepared for success and happiness. CCA’s personalized, flexible learning gives every child the chance to learn at their own pace, pursuing their own interests. Contact us today to learn more about how CCA offers foreign language learning opportunities that introduce your child to a world of wonder.