Enrolling your children in a bilingual or dual language program is an essential first step on their path to biliteracy. Parental involvement in education provides a unique opportunity for parents to grow in their roles as teachers and decision makers. Most parents have many questions about dual language programs. The most frequently asked questions are: “What are the benefits? and How can I support my child if I don’t speak the language?”.
Studies have shown there are many additional benefits to learning a second language in early childhood beyond the acquisition of the language itself. Below are just a few!
Individuals who are bilingual and biliterate have very active and flexible brains. Research also shows that, compared to their non-bilingual peers, bilingual people have an easier time:
- understanding math concepts and solving word problems
- developing strong thinking skills
- using logic
- focusing, remembering, and making decisions
- learning other languages
Stronger Academic Achievement
George Mason University, USA, found that students that spoke more than one language and had a bilingual education were more academically successful in a range of subjects including language and mathematics. Also, students were happier, and had fewer behavioral problems, and attended school more.
Greater Understanding and Appreciation of Students' Native Language
Being introduced to bilingualism at an early age helps students have a deeper understanding of their native language. Researchers found students felt that their home language was more valued and listened to when attending a bilingual program.
A Healthy Brain
Research from Konyang University, Korea, found that a bilingual education delayed the onset of dementia symptoms by four to five years. Because bilingualism requires more neural processing, the brain is stimulated more, helping strengthen cognitive reserve. Brain imaging studies have shown that there are actual changes to the structure of the brain. Children who learn multiple languages also have stronger memories.
Better Appreciation of Other Cultures
Being able to understand stories, songs, and films in other languages can lead to a greater appreciation of other cultures. As the world becomes more interconnected, this helps create a future where diverse groups of people can appreciate each other and work together constructively.
One-half to two-thirds of adults around the world speak at least two languages. In today’s global society, they have many advantages. Globally, bilingual and
biliterate adults have more job opportunities than monolingual adults and they earn higher salaries.
Bilingual individuals have the opportunity to participate in the global community in more ways, get information from more places, and learn more about people from other cultures.
HOW CAN PARENTS HELP AT HOME?
Educational technology programs such as Little Sponges are fantastic tools that make it easier than ever for parents to be involved in their children’s education. Since Little Sponges is available for students to use at home on devices such as computers and tablets, children do not have to leave their language learning in the classroom.
If you’re a parent, you may be asking yourself: How can I help my child if I don’t speak the language they are learning? No need to fear! Here are some tips.
1. Prepare to Be Involved
In a study conducted by the University of Nebraska Foreign Language and Psychology departments, a team of Ph.D. researchers concluded: “it is likely that the programs that do best will be those that encourage parents to not only participate but to lead.”
Take the initiative to ask your child’s teacher what you can do to help your child. While this applies to all academic areas, it is especially important in language acquisition, which is the building block for later learning.
We know from experience that there are various factors that can get in the way of a family’s ability to be active in their child’s education. Some of these include a lack of time, a language barrier, or the simple fact that it can sometimes be difficult to motivate children to study and do their homework.
Little Sponges is built to help bridge these gaps and solve these problems between a child’s education in the classroom and their education at home.
2. Make it a Daily Part of Your Life
Repetition is the key to learning, especially when it comes to language acquisition. However, it is difficult for teachers to provide that repetition and keep their students engaged. You can utilize Little Sponges learning adventures to integrate the vocabulary into your daily tasks. For example, if your child is currently learning about fruits and vegetables at school, review the Garden Adventure learning module together and ask them to name fruits and vegetables in both languages as you stroll through the grocery store.
You can also listen to the Dentist song in the Little Sponges program before or during brushing your teeth. Your child will learn how to brush and floss properly while memorizing new words and phrases in his/her second language. It can be a lot of fun for the whole family! Then, ask your child: “How do you say teeth in Spanish (or another language)?” This will encourage your child to recall and use vocabulary in multiple situations and make it part of his/her active vocabulary.
3. Utilize Technology
We understand that learning and using new technology can be challenging and overwhelming. You only want what’s best for your child’s well being, and this likely includes limited screen time. While this is generally a good rule, the American Academy of Pediatrics states that when used correctly, media usage in an educational context exposes children to new ideas, helps with knowledge acquisition, and provides increased opportunities for social contact and support.
Teach your children that technology is a great tool for learning when used appropriately. Using Little Sponges program, young children learn technology and language skills at the same time. They also learn how to learn in general because the program gives them personalized feedback and teaches them how to learn from their mistakes. Using Little Sponges program parents can facilitate learning at home even if they don’t speak the language because the program includes audio, print, visuals and scaffolding to ensure children receive “comprehensible input”. It’s like having an intelligent tutor at home.
4. Emphasize the Benefits
At first, it may be difficult for your child to understand the value of learning two languages. This can be especially true for children whose home language matches that of their school and community. In their minds, for example, they can already talk to everyone in English, so why should they learn German or Chinese? To combat this, find ways to reinforce that what they’re learning has real-world value, on a scale they can understand.
For example, create situations where children can use their new language skills and see real-world applications. For example, take them to the Chinese restaurant and ask them to order in Chinese or go to the international food market and ask them to read product labels in their second language. Traveling is also a great way to show your children the value of knowing another language. They realize that it’s a super power! As Nelson Mandela once said, “When you talk to a man in a language he understands, that goes to his head. If you talk to him in his language, that goes to his heart.” As we learned during our travels, a few words can go a long way in showing that you care and appreciate the other person!