The words one listens to and the sentences one speaks leave a deep imprint on brain development. When learning a new language, specific brain areas increase in size and function. For children, learning a language is part of their brain’s dynamic as they are unconsciously absorbing new information. Taking advantage of the ability a child possesses to acquire new knowledge and different languages at a young age is essential for their academic and social growth. For this reason, bilingual education should be incorporated in the school system, the advantages massively outweigh the disadvantages.
Bilingualism has numerous cognitive benefits that offer students an enormous advantage in school and any further education. Bilingual children tend to possess a more enhanced focus on the topics at hand and a further developed ability to multitask. Children exposed to another language acquire higher levels of cognitive flexibility, the ability to transition from one concept to another. This ability is what allows them to transition smoothly and adapt readily to environmental shifts. By constantly alternating languages and choosing which words to use, children are regularly practicing their decision making.
This shifting ability is very useful because it can rapidly modify one’s perspective of a concept and accommodate it to a new idea. Mindset changes prove to be important because as time progresses, cultures evolve. Proficiency in another language greatly facilitates this transition from one perspective to another. In a classroom setting, children are often seen to flourish while applying this shifting ability. According to the recent Millennium Cohort Study, children speaking two or more languages outperform their peers in English and Math by the age of seven. This study notes the cases where bilingual students, in their second language, have been seen to surpass monolinguals in their native language.
The cognitive benefits of speaking another language extend into adulthood. Since the brain is more active, natural declines in cognition occur at a slower pace. Researchers have speculated that bilingualism delays dementia, although this is still being investigated. In addition, they have found that those who learned the second language as children had a lower rate of cognitive decline than those who learned it as adults.
Proficiency in another language also provides exposure to more culture and social interaction. This develops well-rounded citizens who are often more adaptable to new environments and new people. Previous researchers have found that children younger than seven months who are exposed to a different language tend to adjust better to environmental shifts. Since they are already used to communicating in other languages, bilinguals tend to be more open-minded when engaging with other children from different cultures and backgrounds.
Multicultural children tend to be more curious and interested in familiarizing themselves with other cultures, rather than shying away. This is a very important phenomenon because it shows how exposure to different languages and cultures enhances a person’s social skills.
Speaking another language facilitates socialization, and can therefore provide students with more opportunities to develop wisdom, a quality uniquely obtained through personal experience. Bilingualism facilitates first-hand exposure to new cultures and involvement in studying at foreign countries. Wisdom, which allows for better decision making, is a key virtue one must possess for a brighter future.
Nowadays, there is a growing number of industries seeking employees who are proficient in a second language. Regardless of the fact that English is the most common language in the business world, international companies establish preference employing people who speak more languages because they are able to communicate with other clients and partners. This shows how a person who dominates two or more languages will have a higher probability of obtaining a job. In fact, in some markets, bilingual workers’ salaries have been shown to increase by twenty percent yearly. Languages are an attractive skill that allow one to stand out from other applicants and may even continue providing economic benefits throughout their career.
On the other hand, bilingual education has a few disadvantages that should be taken into consideration. Among these is the high cost of implementing the system. Currently, many schools are prioritizing single-language programs because they are easier to operate and still provide students fundamental skills required for their education. Since many schools are already cutting foreign language programs from the curriculum, adding the costs of bilingual education would not be financially viable.
When inconsistent throughout school years, implementing bilingual education can fail to work. If some school districts stop their bilingual education in high school or others do not offer it, it can lead to the loss of the language in the student. In order to develop proficiency in another dialect, students must be submerged in the culture and language throughout their school years and eventually, their careers.
In order to effectively learn another language, the bilingual education system must be immersive. Selected teachers and assistants must be fluent and experienced in both languages taught. Additionally, these workers must establish firm expectations for students along with the patience to teach them. Due to these high requirements, there is a lack of qualified and experienced personnel. This is indeed another of the biggest issues why implementing bilingual education is challenging.
Despite the fact that there are several disadvantages that have to be addressed, bilingual education is a pivotal opportunity for next generations that must not be ignored. Challenges including funding, finding qualified teachers, and establishing consistency are definitely ones that can be resolved. Since learning a second language is much easier when done from a young age, it is of paramount importance to include bilingual education in student curriculum. This is a tool every child must possess in order to achieve their full potential and become well-rounded citizens.
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