Being a parent is hard. I don’t know of any parent that doesn’t want to give their children greater future opportunities. We all want children that are more creative, imaginative, that can learn better, so they have all the possible advantages. Like we say in Spanish, we all like to give kids an empujón (a little push) so they can achieve more than we have. Believe it or not, it’s easier than we think and it’s right in front of our noses.
One of the greatest gifts we can give our children is the ability to speak another language. Why is that? Very simple. The latest scientific research tells us that learning to speak another language at an early age is as close to a superpower as it gets. Here’s why…
People who are bilingual have the ability to inhibit one of the languages they know and only speak the other, it’s the difference between saying hola to a person you know speaks Spanish and “hello” to an English-only speaker. These are what researchers call executive functions and people with more advanced executive functions can multitask better and have improved abilities to concentrate.
According to a study that explores the cognitive benefits of being bilingual, Dr. Viorica Marian and Anthony Shook came to the conclusion that the brain that understands two languages always has those languages continuously competing for attention. To be able to control this, the brain has to constantly be monitoring and switching between the two languages. This constant switching is the equivalent of flexing a muscle which strengthens the control mechanisms that allow those executive functions to flourish.
What does this mean? Since the bilingual brain has a lot more information to process, such as when you are listening to a word and your brain starts assimilating the sounds, then figures out which language they belong to. This constant struggle exercises the cognitive abilities of the brain and makes them stronger just like exercising your muscles.
Clearly, there are many developmental and cognitive benefits of bilingualism to learning another language so the earlier your kids become bilingual, the better.
Learning through games
There is an app called Fun Spanish from a company named Studycat which consists of a series of games designed to immerse your kids in Spanish, teaching them words and how they are pronounced in Spanish and how to recognize them.
The games are pretty entertaining and educational, I played myself several games and was very engaged, but the ultimate test came when Olivia, my 3-year-old started playing. She learned the game mechanics right away and after just a few minutes, she was actually repeating the colors in Spanish, something that’s been pretty hard for us to accomplish even though we are a bilingual household.
Learning through games is actually pretty effective for kids. Playing with Fun Spanish, they can learn to speak, read and spell 200 words and phrases in Spanish. The vocabulary they learn is pretty extensive but one of my favorite features is that the voices are male and female, use different tones and expressions to give kids a better range for understanding the different pronunciations for the same words. Another feature I liked is that the games have no ads. You can get a free trial to 12 lessons and over 70 learning games.
For the New Year, you can save 30% off the Studycat subscription by using the code 2020
New Years Bilingual Kids Resolution
In our house we are fully bilingual, it’s hard sometimes to even know which language we are speaking but we are making one of our New Years’ resolutions that Olivia needs to speak fluent Spanish. In the end, giving your kids the ability to speak a second language is as close as you can get to giving them an actual superpower and like all superpowers, once attained, the sky is the limit.