Is It Important for Children to Learn a Second Language?

With European Day of Languages on the 26th of September, it got us thinking…is it really a big deal for children to learn a second language? More often than not, the languages in which students learn at GCSE level are not followed through throughout their lives. Is there really any point?

We spoke to Steven Westgate, Head of Modern Foreign Languages at St Bede’s Inter-Church School in Cambridge, for his views on the subject.

“[Learning foreign languages] helps students to use different areas of the brain. For example, processing skills and memory, which can help with all subjects. It is also important for children to come into contact with other cultures and appreciate differences and similarities.

“Above all, language learning promotes the ability to communicate and show empathy towards others.”

According to Westgate, not only is learning a foreign language a useful skill, but it can also help to improve and develop a number of other important attributes for your child. This can further benefit their overall study performance.

When asked at what age children should start learning a new language, Westgate answered, “Ideally, as early as possible!”

However, this is not currently possible for all children in the UK, as compulsory language lessons do not begin until GCSE level. “Unfortunately, we do not have the skills in the UK for [earlier introduction to languages] to happen, and good MFL [Modern Foreign Language] teachers at secondary level are getting more and more difficult to find.”

Despite this, Westgate insists that “Interest grows with languages the longer that one studies them.”

Therefore, it may be worth finding other means to begin your child’s foreign language education from a young age. Whether this be through private education or home schooling – it may have a huge impact on your child’s learning.

“Parents can help by taking an interest in homework from an early stage onwards.

For example, they can help with vocabulary acquisition and practice. For example, the parent gives the English word, student says and writes the foreign one.”

You may even learn a thing or two!

These are just our views on children learning foreign languages, what are your thoughts?