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The impact of learning a second language

WEDNESDAY, JULY 29, 2015 17:56 PM

Many schools offer kids the opportunity to study a second language, from kindergarten to high school. Studying diverse languages is associated with many benefits for students, including exposure to different cultures and greater communication abilities. Studies have also found that learning a second language can positively impact a child's cognitive function.

A report by the National Education Association discovered that learning a second language can help improve other subject areas, such as English language literacy, social studies and even math. The study mentioned by the NEA tested third graders on their academic achievement. The results found that students with second language learning did as well as or better than the students who did not study a foreign language.

Another study from Frontiers in Psychology found that students who were bilingual had better auditory attention. Thirty-eight students who only knew one language were examined and another 60 multilingual students were observed for the study. The participants were given an attention test and the results revealed that bilingual students outperformed their monolingual peers on the auditory portion of the exam. However, the results also revealed that having knowledge of a second language provided no advantage in visual search tasks.  

Other benefits of a foreign language
The potential for a better academic performance is one reason to encourage kids to take a second language. Another is its ability to line up with Common Core State Standards initiatives. The Standards aim to prepare kids for college and future careers. When students get to college, many are eager to study abroad. Knowing how to speak a country's native language can help students stay safe while exploring a foreign land. Learning a foreign language also provides students with the ability to communicate effectively with a diverse population of people, and gives them bilingual skills that many companies covet. 

Further, studying a second language actually has the potential to benefit a child's health in the future. A study published in the Annals of Neurology found learning a second language may be linked to a slower cognitive decline in the elderly. The study notes that there was no significant difference in brain function between participants who had learned the language at a younger age versus in adulthood. However, although learning a second form of expression early on might not have an impact on one's health, the overall benefits of another language should be taken advantage of as soon as possible by kids.