Choosing a suitable foreign language for your child

A foreign language is useful especially when your child acquired it during early childhood development. The language in itself is not crucial, but the benefits of being multilingual are plentiful indeed.

Learning a different language from the commonly spoken one at home and in school helps to expand the brain’s ability to handle language. Research has shown that a bilingual person uses both languages at the same time inside the brain even when he or she is using only one for communication. Similar research results also show that bilingualism helps to train the mind to focus on information, enhancing the child’s ability to understand mathematics concept and scientific methods. In fact, these cognitive benefits of bilingualism also help to fend off age-related decline such as memory loss1.

Many parents, especially expatriates, agonised over the choice of a suitable foreign language for their children. Are you also facing a similar issue? While there are no hard and fast rules in choosing a foreign language, here are some factors that you can consider.

Choose a language that you speak
For parents who speak foreign languages, you can consider choosing a language that you can speak so that it makes practising so much more comfortable for your child. You will be able to help with homework as well without spending extra money for a foreign language teacher. It makes learning fun for your child and creates an incredible bond between you and your child too.

Choose a language linked to your family heritage
Some families move far away from their home countries and regret that their children cannot speak the language of their homeland. If your family moves far away from your country and you want your children to keep a part of their heritage, the easiest way is to let them learn the language that links to your family heritage. It helps to keep them rooted in the culture and encourage them to visit their homeland when they grow up.

Choose a language spoken in your country of residence
Circumstances can make the choices for you when it comes to choosing a suitable foreign language for your child. Selecting the language spoken in your country of residence helps to expose your child to the language, enabling him or her to pick it up quickly. Your child will have a lot of chances to practice the language, and help with homework can be found easily too. It is a practical choice, especially if you have plans to settle down in the host country in the future.

Choose a language that is beneficial for business
English may be the primary international language for business, but in this time and age, other languages such as Mandarin, Spanish, Japanese and Korean are also picking up as languages for business. Allowing your child to pick up a language that is useful for business can lay the foundation for your child to excel in specific job roles in the future. It also opens vast markets for your child if he or she decides to become an entrepreneur in the future.

Choose a language that the school is offering
If you have a specific preference for your child to attend a particular school, the easiest way for you to choose a foreign language is to look at what the school has to offer. It is a practical choice, but one that can benefit you regarding money, efforts and time. It also reduces stress for your child if he or she does not need to attend a language school just to learn a new language. This is especially useful if the school that you targeted has excellent programs for the foreign languages on offer.

Choose a language that your child is interested in
Learning a new language can be daunting for a young child, so interest does play a big part in how fluent in the language they will be in the future. If your child has shown interest in Japanese because he or she loves Hello Kitty, let him, or her learn Japanese. It will be the easiest of all in the eyes of your child. Besides, you get a free translator for your child when you visit Japan in the future!

No matter what foreign language you choose, give your child a vibrant and positive experience with it. Encourage them to speak the language, and help them out whenever possible. If you have the time and ability, why not learn the language together? It helps to motivate them too!

By Zerlina Zhuang

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