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10 Benefits of Teaching Your Child a Second Language

Here at Malty the Blue Tiger, we think learning a new language is like seeing the world in a brand new color! Just think of all the new books, new friends, and new places that open up to you when you know a second language!

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However, it doesn’t stop there. Learning another language benefits the brain in a range of ways, from improving memory to strengthening concentration. Read on for what science has to say about the benefits of learning a second language, then get started! Play a new Spanish song for your child 🎢, tune into a Spanish television show for kids πŸ“Ί, or read them a dual language book πŸ“š—

the “Words I Learned Today” section of Malty the Blue Tiger, for instance, is a wonderful way to teach vocabulary words with colorful visuals children will remember.

1. It makes your child a better communicator.

Experiencing a second language helps to boost interpersonal understanding skills. In a University of Chicago study of American children ages 4 to 6, an adult who was sitting in view of two car figures asked each child—who was positioned to see three car figures—to move “the small car.” Children who had been exposed to more than one language were more likely than monolingual children to perceive that “small car” meant “medium car" to the adult, showing an improved ability to

infer meaning. 

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2. It expands the brain.

This isn’t just metaphorical—a new language really does change the shape of your brain! Georgetown University Medical Center researchers found that people who speak two languages have more gray matter in areas of the brain responsible for attention and short-term memory (more on those benefits below!). The study authors say these findings demonstrate how long-term experience with a certain skill, such as knowing two languages, can physically change the brain.

3. It increases focus.

The ability to focus naturally improves with age, but those who know more than one language may be a step ahead. In a study published in the journal Bilingualism: Language and Cognition, researchers gave monolingual and bilingual participants three non-verbal tasks meant to test focus. The bilingual participants performed better, recording quicker response times. The researchers say having experience switching between two languages may improve one's ability to maintain focus.

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4. It improves memory.

 In a study published in the Scandinavian Journal of Psychology, researchers gave 60 bilingual children and 60 monolingual children memory tasks. The results? Knowing another language was linked with better memory at all ages. The researchers suggest this could be because organizing and using information from two languages benefits overall cognitive abilities, including memory, in children. For a fun DIY game that exercises both memory and language skills, check out this 

Malty the Blue Tiger Memory Game!

5. It enhances multitasking skills.

Two languages are continually active in the brains of those who are bilingual, and the ability to select the correct words in the correct language sharpens prioritizing skills and multitasking skills, according to Penn State researchers. Related research has confirmed that children who know two languages perform better in perspective-taking tasks, such as prioritizing, than children who know only one.

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6. It aids in decision making.

In one Psychological Science study, researchers found speaking in a second language helps avoid decision-making biases. In a series of four experiments, participants made more logical choices when options were presented in a second language compared to their native language. This is because speaking in another language encourages a more analytic thought process and reduces the tendency toward loss aversion—a fancy word for thinking only about now, rather than the future. For example, English speakers were much more likely to take a bet on a long-term gain (a real-world example might be a 401K) when it was presented in Spanish compared to when it was presented in English.

7. It benefits the brain throughout life.

A second language won’t only benefit your child now, but may also help keep their brain healthy for decades to come. A Neurology study of 648 people from India found that knowing a second language had a protective effect on dementia risk, regardless of other factors such as education, occupation, and gender. A 2017 study showed that this may be because people who know two languages have increased neural connectivity in parts of the brain.

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8. It promotes creativity and problem-solving skills.

Knowing a second language expands what your child dreams up and how they approach problems.

A study in the International Journal of Bilingualism found that bilingual children outperform monolingual children not only in language skills, but also in arithmetic, problem-solving, and creative thinking. What’s more, children who knew a second language were particularly adept at showing selective attention, or the ability to identify and concentrate on important information while filtering out unimportant information. 

9. It sharpens listening skills.

Northwestern University researchers found that bilinguals’ experience with language “fine-tunes” their auditory nervous system by changing how it responds to sound. They recorded brain responses to sounds in 23 bilingual teenagers and 25 monolingual teenagers. Although the groups responded similarly under quiet conditions, the bilingual participants were significantly better at processing speech sounds in noisy environments (and ignoring other sounds) compared to monolingual participants. The researchers attribute this to their experience in juggling language sounds.

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10. It’s FUN!

Besides all of the fantastic cognitive benefits of learning another language, it can also boost your child’s confidence and expose them to a brand new world of books, music, and people. We believe that learning a second language shouldn’t be an arduous task, but rather something your child is intrigued by—which is why we created Malty the Blue Tiger and love offering Spanish & English crafts and activities like this BINGO game.

 

Language is a wonderful adventure, and we’re so happy to be in it with you.

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Ready to get started? 

Teach your child English and Spanish vocabulary with this colorful Malty BINGO game! 

Get the printables!