Have you ever considered teaching your child a foreign language? It’s a dilemma many homeschool parents face. When you start, what curriculum to use, and why do our students need to learn a foreign language anyway? At True North Homeschool Academy, we believe that learning a foreign language has many benefits. See just a few of them below.
Why learn Spanish? Here are 5 Compelling Reasons.
1) There are currently 20 million people studying Spanish right now!
Of all the foreign languages to study, Spanish might be the most popular, and for a good reason. There are approximately 437- 527 million Spanish Speakers worldwide, depending on which list you look at, but it’s definitely in the top 5 languages spoken worldwide.
2) Spanish is also spoken and understood by over 52 million people in the United States.
But buckle up because that number is going to grow! By 2060, the Latino population of the U.S. will reach close to 130 million, making it the second largest Spanish-speaking country in the world, overtaking Mexico, and increasing the Spanish language’s global standing.
3). Spanish, as a language, has a bright future.
With Spanish speakers on the rise, not only in the U.S., It is currently ranked as the second most important language for British citizens to learn.
4). Spanish will increase your employability.
The Spanish market is a huge demographic for companies to target. Currently, the Latin American market has a 1.5 trillion dollar purchasing power (according to Forbes), making Spanish-speaking employees more valuable than ever to employees as they tap into this profitable market.
5) Understanding Spanish will allow you more opportunities.
These opportunities may come as the chase to travel, work, or study abroad with a richer experience. Speaking Spanish will also open up an entire entertainment world, with Spanish You-Tubes, television, and movies produced in Spanish.
Why learn a foreign language? For the health and brain benefits, of course!
Bilingual children score higher on problem-solving than monolingual kids. Learning a new language can improve overall cognitive functioning, including how second-semester you are. In other words, bi-lingual people are better able to observe and understand their surroundings, as well as edit out distractions. Bi-lingual people are better able to spot misleading information. Isn’t it interesting that Sherlock Holms, Lord Peter Wimsey (great fictional detectives), and their creators, Sir Conan Doyle and Dorothy Sayers, were bi or multi-lingual?
Learning a foreign language enhances your understanding of your mother tongue. Learning a second language causes a student to look carefully at sentence structure, grammatical functions, and the nuances of vocabulary. A fun aspect of Spanish is that it’s a derivative of Latin. Latin words significantly influence English. You probably know some Spanish and Latin vocabulary already!
Learning a second language enhances memory and vocabulary. These benefits allow students to score better on standardized tests!
Learning a second language is good, clean fun! Kids naturally love to talk and write in codes, and a foreign language is just that. A terrific code to decipher for young minds eager to learn and develop! The early your child learns a second language, the more confident and adept they will be at learning multiple languages!
So are you convinced that your child needs to learn Spanish but not quite sure where to start?
If you are looking for a great second-semester memory-enhancing, code-deciphering, FUN class, check our Spanish for Children or Beginning Latin! Classes meet live online each week with a passionate, invested multi-lingual speaker.
Why should your child study German? Honestly, the best reason of all is simply because they want to. Whether the interest comes from family heritage, an interest in history, or just that it sounds “cool,” that internal drive is what motivates students to move beyond requirements to any level of mastery.
Benefits of Learning The German Language
Most of the benefits provided by learning German are common to learning any foreign language:
It satisfies college requirements.
It increases a student’s understanding of English.
It increases a student’s ability to recognize context clues.
It increases cultural understanding, both of their native culture and the culture of the target language.
It broadens perspectives and shows new ways of looking at the world.
German has the added advantage of being delightfully literal.
A Good Teacher Makes Language Learning Less Intimidating
I took German in high school because Russian wasn’t offered. I had never really thought much about language before that. Spanish made more sense, or so everyone told me, but I did not enjoy my eighth-grade introduction to Spanish. Fortunately, I had two excellent German teachers whose teaching styles perfectly matched my preferred learning style.
The first was Ms. Glendening. She opened the doors of wonder for me and a whole new world of language. When I wasn’t able to afford to go on the class trip to Germany, she was visibly disappointed. She then searched for a scholarship opportunity that paid for a year of study abroad. My second teacher was living in Germany.
As a teacher, I try to emulate the best characteristics of both: immersive, meaningful, playful, and encouraging.
Parts of German grammar can be intimidating. There is no getting around gender or case or adjective endings. How tedious this is for students has a lot to do with how it is taught, however. One of the clearest methods I know is a simple sentence-building activity that visually demonstrates how German sentences are put together. I turned it into a sort of simple choose-your-own-adventure type game. This grammar drill ended up the most requested game for our end-of-year party.
If a student develops a passion for German that brings them beyond college requirements, there are, of course, other benefits.
German is the dominant language of the EU, with more native language speakers than any other European language. It is the second most spoken second language (behind English).
Germany has the largest GDP of EU member countries.
Germany directly invests over $10 billion into the US economy. Several German companies have satellite offices in the US.
It is the language of Goethe, Schiller, Kafka, Brecht, Beethoven, Mozart, and many others.
German immigration has greatly influenced American culture.
Many of the world’s most significant works in science, theology, psychology, history, and literature are written in German.
Plus, binge-watching your favorite television series sounds like more of an accomplishment in German!
Why should your homeschooler study critical languages? Critical Language Study is a foreign language study that puts your homeschooler ahead of the pack.
Foreign Language study can be a struggle for even the most dedicated Homeschooler. It’s just hard to teach what you don’t know. Thankfully, there are so many great resources available now for instruction with fluent speakers and teachers, that it’s just a matter of finding a great fit!
So, why not ramp your foreign language studies up a bit by going after a Critical Language?
What is “Critical Language?”
A Critical Language is a term used to designate a language where the demand outstrips the supply. In other words, there is a high need for a language professional in these areas, but our country can’t meet the supply.
These languages are essential for reasons of diplomacy, trade, and national security. Because diplomacy, trade and national security fluctuate, the list of Critical Languages fluctuates as well. The current list for Critical Languages includes 60 languages, which can be found here.
Everyone knows that foreign language study enhances your educational Opportunities, and develops leadership potential and career readiness. However, these languages are often overlooked because they may be considered more difficult to learn due to a different alphabet, pronunciation or grammatical structure; they are not closely related to English, like Spanish, French or German would be.
However, anyone who obtains proficiency in a Critical Language automatically has improved scholarship opportunities as well as improved career prospects, as jobs in government, international companies, non-profit organization or security services are looking for professionals with second language training.
What are the best languages to get ahead with your career?
Mandarin and Spanish are on the list, time and again. In fact, if you know English, Spanish and Chinese, you can communicate with 2/3 of the world’s population, which never fails to look amazing on a resume!
Interested in Career Fields that utilize these languages?
Become a Translator (having to do with the written word)
Become an interpreter- this has to do with the spoken word, (this would be more challenging than translating).
Apply for a foreign language Intelligence Officer
Work as a Foreign Language Teacher
Work as an International Sales Manager
Work in a business/ Customer relations that requires a foreign language
Work in the military as a linguist/ Foreign Service Officer
Work as a Humanitarian/International Development Services Offices
Work as a Foreign Correspondent
Jobs Opportunity Listings for those with a Second Language
Interested in foreign Language study that will take you further? We offer Spanish , Chinese Hebrew, Latin, German, ASL and French, at True North Homeschool Academy. Classes are taught by exceptional teachers from across the U.S, Mexico, Italy and Israel who are fluent polyglots. Culture studies and inspiration included!
(The following is a guest post from Ali Thomas, co-founder of NiHao Chinese. This summer you can join Ali for the 2019 Passport to China Camp at True North Homeschool Academy. Through the live, online sessions your students will have the opportunity to experience Chinese culture and language from the comfort of your home.)
“But I’m just not a foreign language person!”
How many times have I heard that? As a teacher–too many to count! However, a foreign language is more accessible than one might think. After all, we all learn our first language as a babbling toddler. The human brain is wired for language acquisition. As we get older, we give ourselves messages of why we cannot do something instead of why we can excel. For students with learning differences and special needs, this is a message that they can receive and internalize often, unfortunately.
Let’s break the stereotype. Learning foreign languages is accessible, as are the many benefits of foreign language acquisition–global understanding, cross-cultural competencies, brain development benefits, and empathy development to name a few. Through working with NiHao Chinese, I have seen many students thrive and grow through foreign language study, and the benefits to their self-esteem alone have been inspiring.
Here are FOUR myths that sometimes prevent students, especially students with special needs, from accessing foreign language.
Myth #1 – I’m just not wired that way.
Dr. Howard Gardner popularized the theory of multiple intelligences, saying that individuals may have natural aptitudes in certain fields of study and skills. However, these types of intelligence are not mutually exclusive. It is possible to be both good at math and art or basketball and Chinese. Humans are social creatures and we are all “wired” to learn and acquire language skills. The human brain learns foreign languages differently than other academic subjects. Have patience with your brain and give yourself time to develop language learning capacities.
Myth #2 – I struggle with English enough as it is.
For students with learning disabilities like dyslexia, there is no doubt that language learning can be a challenge. However, you must remember that it is not always the content itself that presents barriers, but the modes of delivery used in the classroom. In fact, some students with such language disabilities may struggle with spelling and reading in English but can thrive in a foreign language like Chinese because of its unique structure. Chinese is a character-based language–with no alphabet, verb tenses, or other common stumbling blocks for students in the English language.
Additionally, some students find that they understand their own language better after studying a foreign language–I know that was my experience!
Myth #3 – We tried Spanish, and I’m never trying a foreign language again.
If you tried basketball and didn’t like it, would you never try baseball? There are many options for foreign languages to study. Don’t limit yourself or think that one failure means that all language study will be a failure. I’m a big fan of Dr. Carol Dweck’s “growth mindset.” We can set up our own self-fulfilling prophecies around learning. If we think that we are equipped with a “fixed” amount of knowledge, it’s tempting to say that new subjects are out of reach. In contrast, those who view academics with a “growth mindset” see that abilities can be developed with dedication and work.
Maybe your family has tried foreign language study before. Maybe your child wasn’t ready yet. Don’t let rule out all foreign language study for your child. It’s a big world out there!
Myth #4 – Chinese is hard. There’s no way I could handle it!
Accessible learning is often more about the teaching style than the content. With the proper scaffolding, accommodations, and supports, students of all ability levels can access a foreign language curriculum.
For example, accommodations like different pacing, revised vocabulary lists, multiple modes of engagement, and a certified teacher with expertise in teaching students with special needs are all helpful. Live classes also make a big difference for learners.
When a class is dynamic and live, the teacher can tailor the material to a student’s needs. This helps students with learning differences but helps all students in the process. When considering foreign languages for your child, live and dynamic classes often provide more student engagement opportunities and allow the teacher to really get to know your child and how they learn best. (Looking for live foreign language classes? Check out our selection at True North Homeschool Academy.)
Don’t let these four myths prevent your child from accessing the world through a foreign language. It’s a big world out there, and foreign language is one powerful way to connect your kids with global learning and prepare them for the future.
Ali Thomas has dedicated her career to connecting students to international education opportunities. She completed her undergraduate studies at Vanderbilt University and went on to earn her Ed. M. in International Education Policy from Harvard University. She has her certification in teaching English as a Second Language and has taught world languages to a variety of age groups, from early childhood to adult learners. She is passionate about language learning!
At this point, she has contributed to education projects on six of the seven continents and is always looking for new ways to make international education more accessible and engaging. Before starting NiHao Chinese, she worked as an administrator and director of international programs for a Christian school network. In 2018 she co-founded NiHao Chinese with her business partner to connect more US students with international educational opportunities and promote global understanding through language learning. Ali is passionate about providing children a window to the world through Chinese language instruction with NiHao Chinese.