In my opinion, there are few greater gifts you could give your child than the opportunity to learn a second language. In fact, it has been said that having another language is like possessing a second soul (Charlemagne (742/7 – 814), King of the Franks.)
We are fortunate that in Australia we speak English, which is a universal language, and therefore a lot of doors around the world automatically open for us. However, fluency in a second language will open up a whole new world of possibilities to your child. The great thing is that children naturally have the ability to learn language at a faster rate than an adult student, so the timing is perfect.
It’s estimated that more than half of the world’s population is bilingual, according to Psychology Today. There is plenty of evidence from reputable studies that a second language provides multiple benefits to children throughout their lifetime – professionally, but socially too. Here are just a few ways in which the life of your child will be enriched by possessing the skill of a second language.
- People learning to speak another language tend to have more knowledge and understanding around language usage and form in general – not only the new language they are learning, but their mother tongue as well. The reason is simply because the learning process forces them to discover how language itself works, rather than just accepting language the way it has always been.
- Children tend to develop a greater vocabulary size over age, in their mother tongue.
- You can expect sharper brain functions including listening, memory recall, better problem solving, improved critical thinking, greater cognitive flexibility, verbal and spatial abilities
- People who speak more than one language also tend to be more flexible in their thinking and more empathetic towards others, as well as accepting alternate viewpoints among different people, and appreciating people of different race and culture.
- Children can see their own culture from a different perspective, and even possess the ability to compare and contrast different cultures to their own, taking the best from both worlds.
- Finally, when they are older, they will have the opportunity to live and work in different countries, adding to their life experiences.
As parents of Greek heritage, it’s natural for us to want our children to possess the special gift of learning the Greek language. But remember, you are not their teacher, you are their parent. Take the experience of learning out of the classroom, and into their lives.
Children sit in a classroom and are taught to all day. They don’t want more of that at home. So, rather immerse your family life in the language of Greek in a fun way for your kids. There are countless creative ways to do that. You know your child better than most people, so play to their interests. If your children really enjoy going to the beach, take them there and then spend the day using the Greek words for everything you encounter. Or why not choose a certain day of the week, and during that day, you and your spouse only speak to them in Greek. Your kids may answer you in English at first, and that’s fine, but you are allowing them to get familiar with the sound of the language. After a while of that exercise, you may decide then (on that particular day) to only acknowledge their questions or conversations if they are spoken in Greek.
If you have relatives in Greece who don’t have a great command of the English language, imagine how rewarding it will be for your child to address that relative in Greek for the first time. Get your tissues ready!
Take the experience of learning out of the classroom, and into their lives.
To help make your child’s journey of discovering Greek more fun and interactive, I have just launched an exciting workbook titled Trip to Greece. It contains an interesting narrative in English, with Greek keywords to practise and learn. Each page offers multiple fun opportunities for your child to hear, speak, read and write Greek (depending on their age and language ability).
Place your pre-order online – there is also a special offer together with Catch that Cat for a package purchase of both books.
Melina Mallos is a high profile commentator on art and culture for children. She consults to private and public educational facilities, including schools, art galleries, libraries, museums and community centres.
Catch that Cat! Is her first picture book for children. It promotes intercultural understanding, inspiring children to understand and appreciate their own cultural roots, and those of others.