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The Importance of Learning a Foreign Language for Personal Development

By Leyla Norman ; Updated September 26, 2017
Learn a new language with your child.

Speaking another language has multiple personal development benefits. Despite this, just 9.3 percent of Americans are bilingual while 52.7 percent of Europeans speak two languages fluently, according to the California State University, Fullerton. Studying another language can help your child learn to think in new ways and enhance his ability to eventually compete in a global job market.

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Cognitive and Creative Development

A 1991 study published in the journal "Language Learning," found that those who learn a second language become better problem-solvers and are more creative than unilingual individuals. Children who learn a second language at an early age generally show high cognitive development in general, according to two studies cited in “The Benefits of Second Language Study” report on the Connecticut State Department of Education website. Studying a second language can help your child solve difficult problems and approach life with a critically thinking mind.

Broadening Horizons

Learning another language opens new doors in life. Bilingual individuals have access to new movies, music, literature and other forms of communication. Exposure to another culture, ways of thinking and new friends affect their development as individuals. When people know how other people in the world think and what they value, it reduces the likelihood of cultural misunderstandings. Your child can approach the world with a more open mind, form new relationships and increase her ability to successfully maneuver in an interconnected world when she speaks more than one language.

Academic and Career Advantages

High school students who completed at least three years of foreign language study have been shown to get better grades in college and are more likely to complete college than students who did not, according to a 2001 study, cited in the 2007 “The Benefits of Second Language Study” report. Also, many graduate programs require study of another language. In general, studying a foreign language helps students achieve higher grades and standardized test scores across all the core subjects, including math and English. Also, career promotions may hinge on whether an individual can speak another language. A person who speaks another language often has a better understanding of another culture and can better represent an organization on the global stage.

Future Health Benefits

Encouraging your child to learn another language can have health benefits when he is much older. For example, learning another language has been shown to delay the onset of dementia. In a 2007 report in the Canadian journal “Neuropsychologia,” researchers found that being bilingual can defer dementia by about four years. Unilingual men developed dementia at an average age of almost 71, while those who spoke at least two languages experienced a delay of dementia to an average age of 76.1 years. For unilingual women, the average age of dementia onset was about 72 years old, while it was about 75 for multi-lingual women.

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About the Author

Leyla Norman has been a writer since 2008 and is a certified English as a second language teacher. She also has a master's degree in development studies and a Bachelor of Arts in anthropology.

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