Many students and their parents don’t realise that acquiring a second language will be more than just a means of communicating in another language.
Benefits of Learning a Foreign Language
Research has shown that learning a foreign language can provide the following four benefits:
- Greater learning skills
- Better management of everyday tasks and responsibilities
- Enhanced memory capability
- Deeper understanding of others’ feelings
Greater Learning Skills
Learning skills and brain functioning are related. Neurological studies have shown that the brains of children who have acquired or are acquiring a second language are actually larger in size than those of other children. The density of grey matter (brain) of the left brain of bilingual children is greater. What does this mean? This part of the brain is responsible for processing information and controlling aspects of sensory perception, memory, and speech. It seems that the brain can grow when needed!
Better Management of Everyday Tasks and Responsibilities
Bilingual children score higher on tests that involve creative thinking or problem-solving. The ability to translate abstract concepts from one language to another seems to also develop the skill of looking at problems in more than one way.
Enhanced Memory Capability
It is not surprising that the vocabulary size is doubled for many second language learners. They acquire vocabulary in the same amount in each of their languages—their first and second. However, the vocabulary of monolingual children is confined to their one and only language.
Deeper Understanding of Others’ Feelings
The ability to understand more deeply the feelings of others is also known as empathy. Being bilingual requires people to match their own language to the language of others. It also raises their social intelligence levels. This results in many bilinguals becoming more socially aware. They learn that there are more ways than one to view reality. They are more able to ‘navigate and negotiate complex social relationships and environments’.
Finally, and most importantly, because bilingual children acquire a greater capacity to sense the emotional state of other people, they become more sensitive to the importance of congeniality among family relationships, for example. Many become advocates of neighbourliness and peace at both community and societal levels.
Written By Satit Bilingual School of Rangsit University