Learning a second language benefits the speaker so much more than simply having a wider scope of communication. Micheline Chaia, Director of GEMS World Acacdemy‘s Language Institute, addresses these benefits in more depth.
Learning multiple languages is an important part of developing critical thinking skills which can be utilised in wider applications. Learning a second language strengthens the brain’s executive functions even outside of language-related contexts.
Executive functions include cognitive tasks such as focusing attention, switching between tasks, and inhibiting impulses. Accordingly, bilingual and multilingual people show improved listening and attention abilities. This means that people who know more than one language may be better able to process and remember new information. Additionally, according to an article of The Telegraph, “Students who study foreign languages tend to score better on standardised tests than their monolingual peers, particularly in the categories of maths, reading, and vocabulary.” Researchers have also found that speaking more than one language can delay the onset of Alzheimer’s disease.
The world is becoming a global village and while many children are now born far from their parent’s homeland, they still carry names and family names that show their origins. Meeting someone for the first time, they ask a few simple questions, the first of which is generally, “What is your name?” If their names or surnames are Spanish, Arabic, or Chinese, for example, no matter what passport they carry, people ask, “But where are you really from?”. Their names, their national origins, and their citizenships constitute very intimate elements of their being and their identity. If parents do not preserve the mother tongue language of their children, they might grow up feeling different — not different from others, but different from what is theirs, from their people. They won’t speak the language their parents speak, they won’t share the same type of memories and they won’t share things that made their parents what they are and who they are today, their history, their culture and a lot more won’t be transmitted to them.
Language is an essential means of communication among the members of a family and in the expression of culture, language is a fundamental aspect. We encourage parents to use their mother tongue language in home life to ingrain in the child the notion of taking pride in the roots of the family and preserving the cultural and linguistic connections to the home country. At the same time, parents should support the child to build academic skills in learning their home language during school curriculum hours.
We find that mother tongue language fluency strengthens ties with family members and deepens the values of social interactions. The result is that links to family members are maintained and children are prepared to interact in the future with a larger nativelanguage community. In addition, research has shown that parents who communicate in their home language can better convey values and guidance in coping with experiences of growing up. Parents can influence their children and build intimacy through shared beliefs and understandings that could not be communicated as effectively in a second language.
GEMS World Academy has explored all possible options for teaching students their mother tongue language to come up with the most effective and convenient model for both its students and parents. Twelve mother tongue language programmes have been integrated during school curriculum hours at no extra cost, and these include: Russian, Italian, Swedish, French, Spanish, Portuguese, German, Dutch, Korean, Mandarin, Hindi, and Turkish. In adopting this model, students can learn their mother tongue language, while still having the chance to practice and enjoy the sport of their choice after–school, and benefit from spending a class–free weekend with their families.
LOOKING AHEAD There are many families in the UAE who plan to return to their home country. For the children, remaining fluent in their mother tongue language is important for university studies and better employment, in addition to being able to communicate with colleagues and their community members when they return. The UAE is known to be one of the most cosmopolitan countries in the world where the ability to communicate in multiple languages is becoming more and more important in the increasingly integrated global business community. Should the children carry on living in the UAE, the language they learn will shape their future as it automatically puts any multilingual person ahead of his or her peers in the competition for jobs and high-prestige postitions.
Language allows people to communicate with great precision. Despite great communication skills, misunderstandings and mistranslations are common. Many examples can be given to demonstrate how important language is in communication; a doctor who can communicate with a patient in their native tongue is much more likely to have success at treating them. Strong language skills are an asset that will promote a lifetime of effective communication.