You've enrolled your child in Dual Language because you want them to speak Spanish, right? Well guess what? They're getting a lot more than you asked for.
Dual language is taking the USA by storm and for good reason. There are so many positive things about this amazing movement. And the best of them are not language at all!
While biliteracy is certainly the most obvious and tangible benefit from dual language programs, it is just a means to an end.
Don't get me wrong - language is power and bridging to biculturalism is the holy grail. The ability to communicate with others verbally can change lives -- there is no doubt about this!
But, learning the language is just the start.
Here are 4 amazing things more powerful than Spanish that our kids are getting at their Dual Language programs.
#4 cultural appreciation
Dual language programs are exposing our kids to the beauty of cultures around the world. They have an opportunity to experience in the comfort of this safe space, the history, food, music, art and more of places and people they may never have seen or heard of before.
More than that, it opens up an interest in learning about more cultures. I've noticed in my own children a desire to travel and try new things they may have not been so eager to do if not for dual language program. And that is a powerful lesson to provide a child!
Language learning enables this appreciation because it reduces one of the barriers to understanding. It gives them a bit of ownership in the culture and makes them feel a part of it. But the appreciation, understanding and interest in learning more is the true benefit.
#3 expanded global view
I don't know about you, but when I was growing up, there really wasn't much beyond the tri-state area (NY, NJ and CT) that made up my world. Sure, I saw maps and read stories about places far beyond, but it didn't seem all that real.
Dual language makes the world REAL. These friends -- native Spanish speakers -- are proof of a world beyond the school in which they spend their days. Most of their friends may be from Spanish-speaking countries south of the US, but it brings a reality to the entire globe. Hearing first hand stories of a place once only heard of in books or movies becomes their own reality. Places that exist in their own world and not just an abstract idea.
In this case, language helps bridge the gap between friends and makes the map come to life, but the power of that global view is truly the value of this experience.
#2 the brain boost
Studies continue to prove the impact of bilingualism on the brain. From executive function, to memory, and even possibly helping us maintain cognitive function as we age (watch out Alzheimer's!). This is one of the most exciting things about language learning and should cause us all to reach for Duolingo!
Once again, language is a key tool here, but the true benefit is the impact on the brain. I'll take that any day!
I recall being in my 20's and thinking the world was tough and mean. And guess what? It has gotten way way way worse! So much worse in ways none of us could've dreamed! Or at least I surely didn't.
There is a long list of things we could ask for to help improve our world, but I would argue that empathy is at the top of the list. To understand and share in the feelings of others is to open the door to communication, compromise and peace. What a better starting point than that?
These dual language programs are providing our children first hand experiences that help them build empathy. Every year, my daughter has been paired up with a native Spanish speaking peer. In the last 6 years, she has had to learn not only what it means to be in need -- as she is when they are in their Spanish rotation -- but also what it means to support someone in need -- as she must do when they are in their English rotation.
I can talk about this ALL DAY at home. I can force her to be nice to to her sister and help around the house. We can go and volunteer to make sandwiches for the homeless once a month. I can even make her give up 20% of her allowance for donating to a cause.
But building a relationship with someone in which she is both vulnerable and in a position of power is one of the most impactful ways for her to learn this lesson. And I am hopeful it will stay with her forever.
Besides learning Spanish, what other benefits do you see to the Dual Language program?