Research shows that children benefit significantly from learning to speak a second language, particularly in the development of mental processes. Children who grow up in bilingual homes display greater mental processing capacity and verbal skills at an earlier age. Their ability to concentrate, as well as sustain their attention focus, is also greater since they are used to functioning bilingually.
People who speak a second language also follow verbal explanations more easily. Their increased vocabulary - knowing the words for things in two languages - augments mental capacity and leads to improved memory. Studies have also shown that second language speakers are more skilled at critical thinking, being able to arrive at detailed distinctions of meaning faster. As a result, they are more adept at problem solving and multitasking, making switches from one activity faster than monolinguals, and displaying a greater capacity to adapt to changes in their environment.
The advantages of a second language (or more) do not stop there. Greater lingual flexibility makes for a broader range of creativity and problem-solving. Bilingual people also hear and understand better because their brains are used to distinguishing between the sounds and meaning of different languages. And decision-making is enhanced, because – at a subconscious level - linguistic flexibility aids the process of coming to a suitable conclusion.
In terms of a future career, multiple-language flexibility carries significant advantages. It is one of the top eight skills required of all occupations – no matter the industry or skill level. In fact, the demand for bilingual professionals has increased exponentially since 2015. Employers are hiring individuals who can communicate seamlessly with customers in new and expanding overseas markets. The lingual flexibility of a second (or third) language does indeed set candidates apart and give them the competitive edge.
Of course, a bilingual home is not always possible, but there are many avenues available to parents today to expose their children to the sounds of another language, even before formal school entry. Television, the internet, publications, and a multilingual society can all be harnessed to create awareness in children about the different languages people use. Another good idea is to expose children to the attractive cultural attributes of a target language at the same time, such as places to visit in the target country, the cuisine, animations of playful songs and stories, and if possible, attendance at a festival held locally where native speakers will be present.
ESCA’s second language teachers aim to not only teach students a second language, but also empower students to use that language after completing their school career. Knowing a second language means students have the opportunity to resonate with a broader circle of people, opening up their world to more opportunities in terms of leisure and work.