Today’s post comes to us from a very dear friend, Jennifer Brunk. Jennifer writes about language learning and resources for teaching children Spanish on Spanish Playground.
What do children learn as they acquire a second language? Vocabulary, grammar, culture, history, geography… All of these, no doubt, but there are other lessons that come with learning language, too.
I believe that learning a second language shapes children and their view of the world. These benefits may be harder to define than higher test scores or job opportunities, but they are just as important and lasting.
As children acquire more than one language, they learn:
The point of language is to understand and be understood. To be successful, children must learn to listen and be respectful of others.
Languages, cultures and interactions are complex. Children understand that their perception is not the only one possible, because it is interpreted and expressed slightly differently in each language. As they learn two languages, children see that there is a lot they don’t see. They learn to be open to exploring a situation, rather than making assumptions.
Variation is a given. Native speakers of the same language say things differently. Living this reality in more than one language helps children internalize that different is not a question of right and wrong.
Content is more important than form or presentation. Children learning two languages learn to listen for ideas. They focus on the message rather than being distracted by accent or appearance.
Language is powerful and it is a privilege to speak more than one. They can understand that they have a responsibility to use their skills to help others. They learn to appreciate the power of words and to use them carefully.
The globe is theirs to wander and absorb. They learn that each language brings new territory to explore and that when they can’t travel, language will transport them through stories, movies, and music.
Learning never ends. They are aware of what they know in one language and not the other and understand that they will keep learning their entire life.
Jennifer raised her three children speaking English and Spanish, and she has been teaching Spanish to other young world citizens for over twenty years. On her blog Spanish Playground, she shares resources for parents and teachers of Spanish language learners.