Children's brains are still developing and language acquisition happens spontaneously! Studies show that learning a second language as a child can increase brain connectivity and cognitive function, encouraging critical thinking, problem-solving skills, concentration, creativity, and memory! Wow!
As parents we all want to give our children as many tools as possible so they can be successful in this world. We limit their screen time, make sure they do their homework, take them to all their extracurricular activities. Our job as parents is to prepare our children for the world they will live in as adults.
Today’s world is rapidly changing. More than ever before we are required, (in school, the workplace, at home) to be more flexible and creative. We must learn how to adapt to diverse situations and learn new skills constantly, relating to technology, social awareness and environmental issues, just to name a few.
That’s why it is increasingly vital for our children to be able to adapt with ease to new situations, and have the ability to look for creative solutions for diverse problems. How can learning Spanish help our kids with this? Aside from the obvious benefit of being bilingual in a globally connected world, being bilingual is for your brain what exercise and bodybuilding are for your muscles!
Jubin Abutalebi who is the editor-in-chief of the prestigious international journal “Bilingualism: Language and Cognition” says that it is easy to tell the difference between a bilingual and monolingual just by looking at their brains. “Bilingual people have significantly more gray matter than monolinguals in their anterior cingulate cortex, and that is because they are using it so much more often, the anterior cingulate cortex is like a cognitive muscle, the more you use it, the stronger, bigger and more flexible it gets.”
I know, that was really technical, let’s break it down. Learning a second language has been proven to improve cognitive function and increase the connectivity of the brain. This is due to the fact that learning a new language requires the brain to think and solve problems in a different way. As we are learning the language it can help improve memory and multitasking skills, because the learner has to think in both the first and second language in order to understand the conversation. Our brain is constantly, albeit subconsciously, deciding in which language to speak each time we begin to do it. This creates more connections between neurons and broadens the neural pathways. As a result, the brain is able to become more efficient and flexible when it comes to processing information and reacting to different situations.
Learning a second language can help to increase critical thinking skills by teaching us how to analyze, compare and contrast different concepts and ideas. By working with two languages, learners can better understand how to think differently, more creatively and in an abstract way. Being able to use a second language in our everyday life can also help us become more creative individuals, as we need to think more profoundly about how we express ourselves. It also helps to develop a greater understanding of the nuances between words, as well as grammar and syntax, even helping a young, second language learner better comprehend their first language!
The cognitive benefits of learning a second language can help sharpen the mind in a general sense, not just in the area of our brain that processes language. It can be an incredibly rewarding experience, and a great tool for our children’s proverbial toolbox that they will carry with them throughout life!