Why should anyone learn a foreign language?
Amy Melton, Grade 1 teacher at the International School Saigon Pearl (ISSP) in Vietnam, shares her experience of working with multilingual students and considers the many benefits of learning a second language.
When I grew up in the US, I often wondered why should I bother learning a second language because everyone around me spoke English. This excuse stopped me from learning. As I got older, I came to realise how important it was to speak more than one language and how I was at a disadvantage compared to those who were multilingual.
Ethnologue, a linguistic website, states that there are currently approximately 6,909 languages spoken across the globe. I can only speak one. Since teaching in Asia, I have discovered that the majority of my students speak more than one language, especially within their homes.
It is easier to teach students multiple languages simultaneously at a young age. When students attend a school where English is the language of instruction, their minds often switch from their native tongue to English and vice versa. Through observation, I have seen many of my students continuously making this switch. As a teacher, I encourage my students to have conversations with peers in their native language during break times at school because it may relax their brains from the amount of new information in English that they are learning in school.
There are so many benefits to learning a second language, such as connecting with people from different cultures, travelling, building multitasking skills and increasing brainpower. According to The Telegraph on Benefits to Bilingualism, physiological studies show that speaking two or more languages is an excellent asset to a person’s cognitive process.
I encourage anyone who speaks one language to try to learn a second. I often tell my students how being multilingual can be a huge advantage in their lives. Language development is a process of both maturation and experience. It may take a couple of years to become fluent in a new language, but it’s never too late to start learning.