Why Should My Child Learn Another Language?
On this blog we talk a lot about activities to teach Spanish or resources for raising bilingual kids, but for many parents, a foreign language is not a high priority to add to their child’s already long list of activities. Many wonder, why should my child learn another language when they have so much on their plate as it is?
I recently had the pleasure to interview an amazing musician and advocate for teaching Spanish, the wonderful Super Stolie. Below she talks about her own journey to learn Spanish, and why she feels it is so important to expose children to other languages and cultures.
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Why My Child Learn Another Language?
Interview with Super Stolie
Super Stolie (that is, Rebecca Stoelinga) has been performing for children for over a decade. While she has incorporated Spanish into her music previously (see my review of her album Family in Harmony), her latest album Hola Ola is her first fully bilingual collection. Her music is fun and super catchy, and, on a personal level, I have to say how encouraging it is that Super Stolie is not a native speaker, yet she still has achieved a high level of fluency in Spanish!
But given that she is not a native speaker of Spanish, why is it (and the culture) so important to her, and why does she feel so strongly that children should learn another language? Read my interview below to find out!
1. Tell us more about your love for Spanish and Latin culture! How did it begin, and why does it continue to be important to you today?
When I was in junior high, we were allowed to pick between Spanish or French as a foreign language to learn. Even at 12 I was aware of the influence of the Spanish language and culture, so the decision was clear! I think being able to communicate in another language is like having a super power— I actually have lots of memories of when my language skills saved the day! Since I’ve been making connections through music for so many years, combining that now with my second language seems like a job for Super Stolie!
2. Why do you think it’s important for children to learn another language?
I think it’s important for children to be globally educated, and knowing another language connects us with more people in the world, opening doors to new opportunities in travel, career and friendship. Plus, exposing yourself to a new language can help increase comprehension and speaking abilities overall by literally developing your tongue!
3. What can parents do to encourage their children to learn another language? (Or to learn one themselves??)
The first part of the journey is to increase awareness and exposure to another language, and preferably in a daily practice. This can be with books from the library, watching programs in the second language, using apps or flashcards, calling a relative or family friend who can pepper the language into a conversation. But my favorite — listening to music! One of my early practices was singing along to songs I loved (usually with lyrics printed in front of me) because it really helps with language fluidity.
4. What is the story behind your latest single, “Fuerte sin parar”?
In 2012 I released an album called Press Play! with a song called “Top of Our Lungs” about singing and back-seat leg dancing in the car. “Fuerte sin parar” is a pop remix of that song, with an additional Spanish translation of the original lyrics weaved throughout the song. The new version is totally different, very poppy! I used the Spanish lyrics for the chorus and reworked the original English chorus to a rap in the bridge of the song.
5. What message do you hope your young listeners take away from your music?
There are plenty of materials already out there for language learning. As I’ve been shifting into making bilingual music for kids, I’ve discovered that my expertise as a songwriter, and now a bilingual speaker, is to offer music — for entertainment — for those children who are being raised bilingually or who already are. Why should your favorite music be in just one language, if you can speak or understand two? I hope listeners who share a passion for multilingualism continue to support a world where language crossover is another way we can unite as a whole!
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Hi there! I clicked through from Facebook to read this post and I never do that LOL. Basicaly because I disagree, but I wanted to read the reasoning. I don’t think languages are important for kids to learn. There’s nothing wrong with it, it’s good, so long as the kids aren’t forced. But I don’t see it as a big deal. Probably because I’m British and we do languages. I had to do French, German and Latin. None have been any use to me. In all my 53 years. A total waste of time
Spanish is different. Central / South America is different, but in Europe and Asia English is the common tongue and there is never ( usually) a language barrier. As you know we’ve been on the road with the kids over 6 years. So I’ve never pushed them to learn. They picked up a bit here and there. One of them is learning Welsh right now just because he wants to. I just don’t want parents to feel it’s essential or they’re failing if they don’t do this. A well rounded global upbringing doesn’t have to involve learning a language to any level of fluency, it’s rare for those of us who took years of French in school to ever need it in real life. IHS e one good schoolfriend who went on to become fluent in French her degree was in French. I don’t think she’s used it since professionally. Just an alternate world view, I’m not trying to argue or pick s fight
The brain benefits of languages are available from other types of brain activity and kids are not natural language sponges – unless they want to be or have to be. Based on our real life experience of living for 3 years ina village where no English was spoken.
Hi there! Always happy to have other perspectives! You’re right, it’s not the be all and end all of global learning, and I certainly don’t want to give parents something else to feel guilty about. But you also have to recognize that this article is more intended for the average family, not a globe-trotting one like yours. For them, learning another language really can be a window into a different culture or place, or a way to communicate with people in their community that might feel isolated.