If you read my article about the United Nation’s creation of French Language Day, you may remember that my oldest daughter has been studying French for several years and that my husband studied the language for a while years ago. You may also remember that Spanish is one of the other official languages that was honored with a special “holiday” with the hope that people will become more aware of the importance of learning other languages. What I didn’t share in that piece was that my youngest daughter decided to take Spanish when she started high school a few years ago, a move that made me (someone who wishes she’d taken more than one Spanish class in high school) very excited!
Like her older sister, my youngest daughter’s years of studying Latin in grammar- and middle school undoubtedly helped make learning Spanish easier. (#thankyouclassicaleducation) Having that type of foundation in place when she took her first Spanish class as a freshman has made learning the language easier and even more fun than she imagined it would be. In fact, she’s done so well in those classes that she was recently inducted into her school’s Spanish Honor Society, an accomplishment that made me, her dad, and her sister (who was inducted into the school’s French Honor Society three years ago), very proud.
So, why should parents get excited about their children learning a language different than their native one, such as Spanish? Language experts believe that doing so could help them experience more professional success and personal fulfillment than their monolingual peers. Why?
On a personal level, individuals who have even a basic ability to speak and read Spanish will likely have an easier time navigating big cities–such as Los Angeles, New York, Chicago and Miami–which have large populations of native Spanish-speaking residents and, subsequently, a great need for bilingual business executives, educators, medical professionals, and government officials.
Being able to speak and understand Spanish will increase the number of service opportunities available to your child throughout his or her life, as well, and give them an important tool that could make it possible for them to bless the lives of countless people. Bilingual (and even multilingual) individuals are needed at non-profit organizations and parachurch ministries around the United States and abroad who are committed to improving the lives of others.
Do you and your children have a desire to vacation in a country in which Spanish is the primary language (e.g., Spain or Mexico) or one of a country’s or territory’s official languages (e.g., the Philippines, Puerto Rico, etc.)? If so, having even a basic understanding of the language could make communicating with local residents and business owners, as well as reading signage and restaurant menus, possible and help you have a more enjoyable visit.
I recently read comments on the website managed by Bilingualism Matters,* a research-based center that wants to make bilingualism (and even multilingualism) commonplace, that have stuck with me. And, I’m sharing them below so you can see them:
“Bilingualism is for everyone, not just those who grew up in bilingual households.
Investing in language learning…is a great chance to give our children the best possible future.”
Wow! If my girls weren’t already studying foreign languages, I’d be stocking up right now on language learning resources that I would insist they work on as soon as school is out next month!
If you’re not a native Spanish speaker, but have a desire to learn the language and help your children learn it, take a look at the below suggestions on how to move a step closer to making that dream a reality.
Purchase Spanish flash cards for young children and play games with them on a weekly basis that allow you to quiz them and see what they’ve learned. You could also secure copies of bilingual translations of popular fairy tales or children’s books from your local library or bookstore and read them in place of your children’s usual bedtime stories. (Check out the photos of several that I’ve bought in the past for my youngest daughter for a few suggestions.)
Younger kids might also enjoy watching videos on YouTube (e.g., Rock ‘n Learn’s “Learn Spanish for Kids,” Learning Time Fun’s “Spanish For Kids,” etc.). Finally, parents of teens can purchase paperback or electronic versions of Spanish language dictionaries and phrase books so their older kids will be able to study them in their free time or to supplement their school- or homeschool Spanish curriculum. Regardless of your children’s ages, there are resources available to help them flourish as they attempt to learn Spanish.
*For more information about language learning, please check out Bilingualism Matters. Based at Scotland’s University of Edinburgh, a university my husband once considered attending for grad school, the center operates two dozen international branches (including the one that opened in Chicago last month) that strive to provide resources and services for educators and parents of students who want to learn other languages. And, if you know of any other resources that would be helpful to other families, please feel free to mention them in the comments section below.
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