Monday, October 27, 2014

World Language Corner

As teachers and speakers of world languages, we occasionally hear parents say, “My child doesn’t need to learn a second language. I prefer that s/he focus on the ‘real’ subjects like math and English.” Likewise, students sometimes ask, “Why do I have to learn another language? Everyone in the world speaks English!” 

Below, we share a few of the reasons why other language learning is beneficial, useful, enriching, and (we would say) even life saving. These excerpts come from the Middlebury College Interactive Languages program:

FIVE (totally objective) REASONS everyone should know at least two languages:

1)     Students who study a world language for just one year score an average of 38 points higher on the SATs. (Even cooler: Students who took four years of a world language showed scores that were more than a hundred points higher on average.)
2)    The National Institutes of Health discovered that people who speak more than one language are much better at multitasking, which means walking on your hands while chewing gum should be a breeze.)
3)    According to an MITstudy, people who know two or more languages earn an average of $128,000 more in their lifetimes.
4)    2012. The year that researchers at the University of Cambridge discovered that people who know two languages are nicer. According to the research, bilingual folks are better able to tolerate differences and find solutions to conflict.
5)    835 eleven-year olds were tested on their cognitive ability in Scotland in 1947. Between 2008 and 2010, those same people were retested in their seventies. Of the 835 case studies, 260 knew at least two languages. THOSE 260 PEOPLE TESTED SIGNIFICANTLY HIGHER IN COGNITIVE FUNCTION THAN THEIR SOLELY ENGLISH-SPEAKING PEERS.

People who know two or more languages can order dinner in another country without accidentally getting broiled squid. They can make friends with people from different cultures and countries. They can also ask for directions to the restroom and actually end up in the restroom. In our opinion, everyone should learn another language!

FIVE WAYS that being bilingual makes you smarter:

1)     In a Florida study, kids who knew two languages SCORED AN AVERAGE OF 23 TO 34 POINTS HIGHER on both math and language arts standardized tests than kids who only spoke one language.
2)    54% of PRESCHOOL AGE BILINGUAL CHILDREN ARE ABLE TO EASILY DISTINGUISH THE MEANINGS OF WORDS. Most children aren’t able to do this until elementary school.
3)    BABIES RAISED IN BILINGUAL HOMES demonstrated SUPERIOR COGNITIVE ABILITY – specifically the ability to seek new stimuli more quickly, as early as seven months old. (According to the National Academy of Sciences, that’s an early indicator of a high IQ.)
4)    People who know more than one language are able to PAY ATTENTION for 20% LONGER on average than their one-language-speaking friends.
5)    Bilingual people have .05 cubic millimeters more of gray matter in the parietal regions of their brains than those who speak only one language.

FIVE REASONS knowing a world language makes you more creative:

1)     People who know more than one language are better able to utilize a distinct area of the brain called Broca’s area. As infinite connections between words and language are made in the brain, these thinkers are able to better think creatively and abstractly.
2)    1, 596, 234 is the number of people who tuned in to the TedTalk by linguist Patricia Kuhl as she explained how bilingualism helped babies as young as six months old make use of sophisticated creative reasoning.
3)    A group of 60 bilingual students were studied alongside 60 of their one-language-speaking peers. The researchers found a noticeable difference in the level of detail and richness in descriptions by the bilingual student – proof that they thin more colorfully.
4)    DID YOU KNOW THAT IN JAPANESE, THERE ARE TWO WORDS FOR THE COLOR BLUE? One refers to lighter shades of blue and the other to darker one. Because different language vary so much in vocabulary, people who speak two languages are able to perceive things like color differently.
5)    45.4 MONTHS. Bilingual children showed a statistically significant increase in mathematical creativity (that’s code for thinking outside of the box) as early as 45.4 months. That’s less than four years old.

People who know two or more languages make our world more colorful. They can tell you about early Renaissance art and also pronounce the names of the artists correctly. They can speak with a flourish and cadence that sounds like a classic song.  In our opinion, people who speak more than one language are some of the most creative people in the world. 

PLEASE SHARE how knowing another language has changed or influenced your life. JUST e-mail your child’s language teacher – we would love to hear!

STAY TUNED for future posts.

Deborah Fugate
Middle School Spanish Teacher

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