The term plurilingualism is used to talk about people that can communicate in more than one language. New work environments, cultural fusion, an increase in leisure and tourism… This phenomenon is seen in an ever-increasing number of people all around the globe as we are more frequently exposed to several languages. Logically, plurilingualism is a reality for the students of international schools. What benefits does this phenomenon have for children’s development?
Apart from the fact that speaking another language is almost essential nowadays due to globalization in the workplace, a large number of studies show that plurilingualism is beneficial for the cognitive development of the brain, especially in children.
Although some people continue to wrongly believe that moving to a country where another language is spoken can confuse children, various studies have shown that they can tell two languages apart and start to master them from a very early age. Being plurilingual does not confuse us. To the contrary, it increases cognitive capacity and stimulates the development of the brain. Therefore, for children, growing up with two languages is just as natural as speaking only one and has many benefits from a very young age.
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The plurilingual brain from childhood
The brain of a plurilingual child is divided into two or more compartments: one for each language. For obvious reasons, this is not seen in people that only speak one language. This creates more connections in the brain and allows youngsters to switch and distinguish between languages perfectly. The two languages are always active in the brain.
Constantly switching between one language and another is great mental exercise for the brain. Generally, youngsters that speak more than one language are more likely to perform well in cognitive tasks and also have greater visual and auditive awareness. In other words, as well as having a “fitter” brain, children that grow up in a multilingual environment can learn faster than their classmates. Therefore, your children will not fall behind in their education just because they speak a different language at home than in school.
Some studies go even further and show that speaking two or more languages changes the physical structure of the brain, and all of these differences are positive. It has even been proven that speaking several languages can delay the onset of dementia.
Furthermore, having to coordinate two or more linguistic systems increases a person’s mental flexibility. Moreover, learning a second language helps children to understand that their language is just one specific way of organising reality and their personal experiences, not the only one. This makes children more aware of diversity and helps them to open up their minds to the world and others. These skills are basic concepts for developing flexible and critical thinking, skills that are essential and required by companies and society.
The importance of plurilingualism
Apart from the advantages for the cognitive development of the brain, speaking another language has many more benefits for children related to communication, culture and future employment opportunities.
Logically, children that speak more than one language ae able to communicate with people of different nationalities in their daily lives or when they travel to another country. In addition, they have the double ability to read and write in different languages and, therefore, have access to a broader range of information that can widen their knowledge. Likewise, having access to two different cultures enriches a child’s education (literature, history, traditions, etc.), allowing them to eventually become a more cultured person.
Finally, the work-related advantages of plurilingualism are probably the most practical benefit for children, as speaking more than one language allows them to live, study and even work in other countries. Furthermore, many employment opportunities involve duties that must be carried out in an international context and, therefore, being able to communicate in other languages opens many doors on the job market.
Plurilingualism is extremely beneficial for children’s development. What’s more, as the human brain best absorbs information during childhood, this is clearly also the perfect time to start communicating in another language, although this can be beneficial for learning in any stage of schooling.
Spain as an opportunity for plurilingualism
Studying at one of the Best Schools in Spain is a guarantee of a quality education in a country where students can learn Spanish, the second most common native language in the world and the third most widely spoken in daily life.
Our schools have many international links, which means that they are the best prepared in Spain to welcome foreign students and cater for their individual needs. The teachers at our schools adapt teaching to the pace and requirements of international students, supporting their integration, academic progress and Spanish and English language skills, if needed.
In our schools, we encourage language learning and cultural exchange in order to enrich students on a personal level and put them at an advantage in their future professional development.