"Not training our kids to be able to work and live in an international environment is like leaving them illiterate" David Boren
"if we look towards the nest generation, it's almost unavoidable to think anything else that that China will be a very important global actor." Bjorklund
"If a person who speaks three languages is a trilingual, and one who speaks four languages is a quadrilingual, what is someone called who speaks no foreign languages at all? Answer: an American ~ Kristof
Newsweek has a fascinating article this week about how to raise a global kid that is making me think and clearly it's on many people's minds. ( Thanks to Christine who sent it to me on Facebook). Again we find ourselves as accidental trendsetters, but we prove that ordinary monolinguals CAN do this since we've been doing it going on 6 years now on just $23 a day per person. No, you don't have to be a billionaire to give the same cultural and cognitive advantages to your kids and there are many different ways to do this. I advise starting young.
Plus we were featured in Have Family Will Travel with our first Youtube video Where in Heaven is Mozart, which became a viral travel video ( we still have to get up part 2 and 3 of that video which are almost ready as we've seen so many more countries since that was made). Also by chance dear Benny happened to mention us in comments at Fluent in 3 months. Discussing global kids seems to be in the air!
In 2004 a report in the UK showed that having a second language could increase an average worker's salary by $226,700 over a lifetime. Studies show that a bilingual or multilingual person can make a greater salary than a computer programmer or engineer as they can use their abilities with languages for a wide range of success. Studies in both the U.S. and Canada show that bilinguals make more money.
"Indeed, because English is spoken so universally, it no longer offers companeis and employees the edge it once did, according to a recent report by British linguist David Gaddol. If you want to get ahead, learn Mandarin. "In many Asian countries, in Europe and the USA, Mandarin has emerged as the new must-have language" Gaddol notes" Time
There are MANY advantages to learning a language and raising ones child as a polyglot, not just for the economic market place. Bilinguals from birth have many lifelong advantages from much earlier abstract thinking which helps in math, plus better executive control to even forestalling Alzheimer’s disease and more. The best way to learn a culture is to learn the language and spend time where the language is dominant. Today, thanks to tech, that spending-time-else-where is easier than ever as we no longer have to school or work in one place.
I agree with MIT linguist Pinker who says: "One free lunch in the world is to learn another language in early childhood." Too many miss that important window and it is doable even for ordinary monolinguals like us. We used resources in typical white bread suburbia USA that most miss. America is filled with language learning opportunities and more should be made for pregnant woman and babies where language learning begins most easily.
I think every preschool and school in the US should be Spanish immersion, so all kids get the advantages to their growing brain. I think Canada should do that with French so everyone becomes bilingual and has all the advantages. Since Pew predicts 29% of US population will be Hispanic by 2050, I agree with Kristof who said in the New York Times "Every child in the United States should learn Spanish, beginning in elementary school; Chinese makes a terrific addition to Spanish, but not a substitute. ". I say the earlier the better. With two fluent, it is easier to add others.
None of us can learn every language, and as fun and rewarding as language learning is, it's also many years of hard work and needs to be kept up always. Kids can lose languages as easily as they pick them up, so it is a long term commitment. What is the most important language to learn today? Experts seem divided about languages importance depending on economics and depending on language by population, so I suppose it will vary according to perspective. Nobody knows the future, but language learning benefits undoubtedly.
I find it most logical to spend the effort on the most dominant languages in different language families. If one is fluent in Spanish it is very easy to later add French, Italian, Portuguese, Latin etc. If one is fluent in Mandarin it is easy to add Japanese and other tonal languages. I think my grandchildren will need Hindi just based on population trends.
Computer translation will get better, but it wll never be as advantages as knowing another language and culture. English, Mandarin and Spanish are the top languages online currently, but many of the English speakers use it as a second language and Mandarin and Spanish are rising faster than English.
Every language that you add, makes you better at your dominant language and it gets easier to add more as the brain becomes more sensitive to language and code breaking. The real driving force for English as a global language is because the United States has had enormous political and economic power but that is changing. In much of East Asia, Mandarin Chinese has already displaced English as the chief second language of study. One third of the students at my daughter's Mandarin school in Asia are boarders who come from other Asian countries.
Because language learning is hard work, strategic choosing makes sense to me. I'd hate to put all this work into an obscure language that hardly anyone speaks. Not that I don't love Gaelic which is part of my heritage, but it made a lot more sense to master Spanish which is half of my child's genetics and heritage, but also a dominant language that is more useful to her.
Just as I strategically picked violin and piano for our daughter to learn music from an early age, with a superb foundation in music and languages, she can later tweak it to what ever she needs. Yes, she picked violin and piano, but I also discouraged lessons in other instruments or languages because of the time commitment. My view is she can easily add new languages or new instruments later if she wants, but I will guide her and sacrifice to give her what I think is most important for her foundation.
International business, translation, linguist and international law are not the only advantages to deep fluency in the major languages and economic powers of the planet just as learning an instrument doesn't mean one has to become a musician to receive the benefits. Being able to work or go to a University in the world's top three languages, understanding the cultures in a deep way by living and schooling with locals, having deep friendships around the world, feeling at home any where in th world, is a huge advantage that we can already see even with our ten year old. No matter what she does in life, having three dominant languages and playing two instruments will add to her life immensely and also give her important skills to pass on to her children.
That is really the point for us..just to give her a good foundation.
What do you think about helping your child become a global citizen? Are learning languages important? How about travel? Is there a difference with vacations compared to extended travel? If you can just add one language which would you choose and why? Are there ways to take advantage of the global community that lives in every country to help make immersion available for those who don't travel? Can things like couchsurfing and home exchange make it more accessible to all?