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Adventures in Drool: One, Dos, Trois

By Rachel Swick Mavity | Apr 16, 2012
Source: Google images Are you teaching your child a second language?

Are your children bilingual?

Being bilingual has a number of benefits for adults and children. New studies are finding that people who speak two or more languages have higher IQs, improved math skills and increased creativity.

Child IQ tests show that children who speak more than one language are able to think of more uses for a typical object. For example, they were shown a paperclip and asked to come up with uses.

Studies also show this creativity leads to better thought processes and heightened awareness.

It makes sense to me. If a child knows an object by more than one name in more than one language, then yes, he would have a heightened awareness of what to call the object.

If he couldn’t come up with the word for sink, for example, he could maybe come up with the word ‘lavaplatos,’ which is what many Spanish speakers call the sink.

Math is one of the most important skills for children. Growing up as a poor mathematician myself, I am eager to find any way to get my son interested in math.

According to Baby & Toddler magazine, “Bilingual children are able to grasp rules and process information more easily, which gives them a head start in problem solving. It appears these skills translate to mathematical ability.”

A German study found multilingual children topped their counterparts in fraction exercises.

For me, that is a huge incentive to teach Droolface other languages.

There is also the practical application. Many children and adults in the United States are Spanish speakers. Many jobs are looking for bilingual candidates who can easily communicate with this growing demographic.

I read once that in the next 20 years, the children and grandchildren of some of the first Hispanic immigrants will be the new voting demographic. That means everyone, politicians included, will have to target this growing population. And, as they continue in their own career paths and become in charge of corporations, they are going to be looking for workers who speak Spanish and English, so they can continue to provide services for Spanish speakers.

This is the future, people!

There are many ways to incorporate another language into your household – any maybe the parents will also improve foreign language skills.

In my house, I am all about providing educational opportunities around every bend. Besides the science center on our living room cupboard, I also placed signs on our appliances with both the English and Spanish names.

For example, at child-height on my stove, it reads “stove” and “estufa.”

We have done the same thing on our refrigerator, dishwasher and drawers. This way, when Alex starts learning language, he will already know some Spanish.

Another way to help your child learn another language is to have a Spanish-speaking friend (or whatever language you are interested in teaching your children). My son is often around friends who speak Spanish regularly. I tell them to keep speaking Spanish to Droolface, so he can pick it up at the same time he is learning English.

In a recent poll done by Parents magazine, 57 percent of readers chose speaking a foreign language at the most critical skill for their child to develop.

That’s more than double the number of parents who chose learning a sport or playing an instrument.

While I hope Droolface does those things as well, because they are fun, let’s be honest with ourselves – learning a sport and playing an instrument don’t often help with the final goal of finding a career. Very few actually make it to professional sports, and even fewer become professional musicians.

"A young child's brain is wired to pick up language naturally," says Nancy Rhodes, director of foreign-language education at the Center for Applied Linguistics, in Washington, D.C. in an article. "Between birth and puberty, children can learn multiple languages and echo accents easily."

Kendra Swick (my sister) spent two years in the Peace Corps in Ecuador, during which she became fluent in Spanish. She had already taken several years of Spanish in high school and college, but that time being immersed in the culture and language really helped her.

While she said it is hard for a child to fully learn Spanish if not regularly immersed in the language, just learning the early skill and words helps.

She said she wishes she had learned Spanish from a younger age because it would have made it easier as an adult.

Her Peace Corps training and experience helped her get into medical school and her continued Spanish language skills will likely help her land the career of her dreams upon graduation.

“I think that knowing a second language opens up another population of people to you domestically or abroad and by proxy expands your worldview,” said Swick. “I think this is even more important for kids and raising a new generation of culturally aware, globally-minded people, which I really believe will go a long way for improving U.S. relations with the world.”

Send comments to rachel@capegazette.com. Have a great week in the kingdom of drool!

 

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