Suffice it to say that if you have a child under the age of 10, your understanding of the world is fuller than theirs. You’re probably better at many things, like filing taxes or balancing the gentle chaos of work, chores, and family.
But if you both sit down to learn a new language, guess who’s taking the lead there? Your child—and they’ll be understanding and speaking it faster than you could ever imagine.
Kids are uniquely primed to pick up language quickly. A recent MIT study, which pulled from a dataset of 670,000 people, found that children actively learning or immersed in a language before the age of 10 have the best chance of achieving proficiency, similar to that of a native speaker.
It makes sense that language comes easier to early learners. They’re better at implicit learning, which means that if they have the right immersive learning opportunities, they do well by simply listening to a new language and imitating it.
And for kids who are either fluent or building their proficiency in a second language, the benefits are numerous. From boosting academic achievement to broadening their worldview, here’s how second-language learning can give your child a significant, lifelong advantage.
1. Boost their problem-solving
Early second language learners have stronger executive function than their counterparts. This means that they’re often better at planning, focusing, and achieving goals. They’re also better multitaskers and critical thinkers, and some research suggests that bilingualism also provides a significant creativity boost.
When given a more complex task, you can expect that bilingual children are better able to work through a problem to find a solution—which is a valuable skill to carry through adulthood!
2. Be a better student
From learning addition to scoring higher on tests, building skills in a second language can help your child achieve more in the classroom. The critical thinking skills mentioned above allow language learners to dive into the “why” behind concepts in every subject.
Plus, bilingual students report higher attention spans. Learning a second language can help your child keep their focus, both in and out of the classroom.
3. Maintain ties with family culture
It’s common for children to grow up bilingual in the US—33 percent of all US children under the age of nine speak at least two languages. If you’ve raised your child in a bilingual household, then you’re already aware of the rewards of language learning and how it can strengthen your child’s cultural identity.
Or perhaps you’ve lost the language your family speaks and are looking to learn yourself? Learning a language with your child is an awesome way to bond together and reconnect with longstanding traditions. Children are innately curious about where they come from, and language is the perfect gateway to understanding their personal history and the wider culture around them.
4. Deepen their sense of empathy
Your child may adopt a language quickly, but there are still a slew of mistakes they’ll make along the way. No one can speak a language perfectly from the get-go—and that’s okay! Like learning an instrument or perfecting a golf swing, mistakes are a part of the process, and learning a language can show your child how rewarding it is to work through challenges.
It’s this kind of perspective that can also boost their overall emotional maturity. By understanding the struggle of learning a language, they’ll be able to better empathize with their peers when roadblocks appear. In short, learning a language can help your child build their social skills and be a better friend!
5. Widen their cultural understanding
Kids have so much to learn about the world. Language can be an awesome way to pique their interest and provide a cross-curricular learning opportunity!
Did you know Spanish is the official language of 18 countries? Each of those countries—from Argentina to Venezuela—has a distinct culture of its own. Even Spanish itself varies between regions, both in sound and substance, and regional slang and idioms provide a window into worlds your child may not otherwise encounter.
No matter what language your child is learning, it’s an easy way to expand their worldview and build a more nuanced understanding of the people they meet.
6. Make meaningful connections
If you want your child to learn a language, problem solving skills are a fantastic benefit, but the ultimate goal is for them to feel comfortable having conversations and connecting with the world around them.
Learning a language allows your child to connect deeper with the idea of knowing and supporting their greater community. A future teammate, a favorite shop owner, a beloved teacher—a second language can help your child build lasting, meaningful connections with more people in their community. If your child is looking for ways to give back to their community, taking the time to learn a second language is a true mark of care and can allow them to unlock doors for others in the future.
Plus, with newfound connections, they’ll have ample opportunities to practice their new language and learn new vocabulary!
7. Live a longer, healthier life
Who knew knowing a second language could lead to better health outcomes? This surprising benefit emerged after a recent study by York University found that bilingualism provides the brain with a great cognitive reserve, delaying the onset of dementia. Other studies have also observed faster and more complete recoveries for bilingual stroke patients.
Your child won’t reap any immediate benefits from this perk, but they’ll thank you in the long run. In the short term, language can help them form stronger connections with a wider net of people, and making strong friendships can deeply benefit their mental health.
How to make language learning happen for your child
Problem-solving, empathy, culture—a second language has so much to offer for your child’s long term growth and success. Now that you’ve seen the benefits, the next step is to determine the best language learning tool for your child.
Since children are best at implicit learning, immersion is a particularly effective learning strategy. If your child is learning Spanish for the first time, for example, they would benefit from being spoken to and speaking in Spanish at home.
If fully immersive learning isn’t an option, Rosetta Stone’s Dynamic Immersion approach to learning can help them pick up languages quickly and naturally. With audio from native speakers and immediate feedback on their pronunciation, they’ll feel conversation-ready from their very first lesson. Choose from one of 25 languages, and have them start their first lesson today!