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Oregon Family Magazine

Benefits of Learning a Second Language

08/02/2021 ● By Jan Pierce
We hear so much these days about a “globally diverse community” and well we should because our children will have the opportunity to travel more than we ever did and will be exposed to many diverse cultures in their lifetime. One way to help prepare young children for their future in the adult world is to expose them to a second language at an early age.

Studies show that there are optimal times for the brain to “hear” and be able to correctly duplicate the sounds of a second language. The earlier the exposure begins, the better to achieve native-like grammar and pronunciation. They also show that immersion in a language is far better than introducing a new language in several lessons a week. The learner needs opportunities to hear, imitate sounds and absorb grammatical patterns. While there is a lot of ongoing discussion on how and when to learn a second language, scholars agree there are definite benefits.

Benefits of Learning a Second Language

  • Enjoyment of communication increases with development of several languages.
  • A greater appreciation of diversity is developed.
  •  Success in English is also increased. 
  • The brain can “compartmentalize” different languages with no confusions those knowing several languages score higher on standardized tests such as the SAT. 
  • Math scores and problem solving abilities are increased. 
  • Those knowing several languages will be prepared to find jobs in business, politics, the military and other global spheres.

Some children will have a greater aptitude for language learning than others. This aptitude is broken down into skills which include sensitivity to sound and structure for learning pronunciation and grammar, and memory for learning new words and meanings.

If your local schools offer second languages, that’s wonderful! If they aren’t, perhaps you can find local language centers or schools specializing in immersion language instruction. For more in-depth information on children and second language learning you can find the following articles on-line.

Communication and Culture: The Benefits of Beginning Foreign Language Study Early by Katherine Hannes

Foreign Language Instruction: Implementing the Best Teaching Methods by the American Educational Research Association

The Benefits of Teaching Multiple Languages in Daycare or Preschool by Carla Snuggs.

Another way to approach instruction of a second language is the use of various pre-packaged programs for use at home. They usually include a combination of books, workbooks along with DVD’s or CD’s. Here are some of the best:

Muzzy: French, Spanish, German, Italian and Chinese

Language Adventure: Spanish, French, Japanese, Italian and German

Eazyspeak: French, Spanish and German

Jumpstart: French, Japanese and Spanish

Kidspeak: Spanish, French, German, Italian and Hebrew

Language Learning Websites are a wonderful way to gain language exposure. For children, some recommended sites are:  Chillola, Duolingo, Kids Web Japan or Voyage Kids.

Finally, even selective television watching can offer a bilingual component to a child’s life. So, give your children or grandchildren a boost in their overall learning and open doors to future travel, careers, and love of communication in our ever-expanding global community. Expose them to a second or third language, and why not… you can even join the fun and begin to learn a new language right along with your kids!  Voila!  

Jan Pierce, M.Ed., is the author of Homegrown Readers and Homegrown Family Fun. Find Jan at