Learning a foreign language has so many benefits for children, including improved critical thinking, communication, memory, and empathy. But the benefits get even better as they grow up because knowing more than one language is linked to higher college admission test scores, increased performance in other academic areas, more job prospects, and even combating Alzheimer’s.
Plus, there are many ways for your children to become multilingual, including as a heritage speaker through a parent or other family member, with an online language course, through a cultural organization in your community, or at school. That’s why Crème de la Crème has put together this guide on the top languages for children to learn and how to choose the best language for your child.
Best Languages for Kids to Learn
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These are seven of the best languages kids can learn based on how widely these languages are used and how sought after they are in different professional industries.
Spanish is the second-most widely spoken language in the U.S. and the fourth-most widely spoken language in the world. That means your child will have plenty of real-life opportunities to use the language, no matter what they do for work. Since it’s so popular in the U.S., your child may have better access to Spanish lessons and activities where they can improve and maintain these language skills.
What’s more, it’s a Romance language, sharing Latin roots with other Romance languages like French, Italian, and Portuguese as well as English. By learning Spanish, your child will have a solid foundation on which to learn other similar languages.
French is the fifth-most widely spoken language in the U.S., and that includes people aged 5 years old and up as well as those who speak Patois, Cajun, and other dialects. Like Spanish, French is an awesome language for children to learn because they may have more real-life opportunities to practice the language with others and learn from local community organizations. Plus, French is one of the most common languages to teach in American schools, alongside Spanish.
Chinese, including Mandarin and Cantonese, is the third-most widely spoken language in the U.S., and Mandarin is the second-most widely spoken language in the world. Being able to speak, read, and listen in Chinese is an incredibly important skill for many different careers. And learning the language can be really fun and interesting since its written characters and pronunciation (it’s a tonal language) are very different from English.
Germany has one of the largest and strongest economies in the world, and it’s a prominent market for many industries, including engineering. It also has many connections to the U.S. market, and there are many German companies that have U.S. offices. That makes German one of the best languages for children to learn so they have more employable skills.
Russian is the eighth-most widely spoken language in the world, and it’s an in-demand language for careers in international politics, cybersecurity, technology, business, and more. The Russian alphabet is just a tad longer than the English alphabet, so it’s still somewhat easy to learn. Plus, this language is spoken in a dozen or so European countries, and you can find Russian-speaking communities in many parts of the U.S.
American Sign Language
American Sign Language (ASL) isn’t technically a foreign language, but it’s a taught language that your children can use to better communicate with members of the deaf and hard-of-hearing community. This language can be beneficial for kids who want to have jobs that serve these communities, including social work and health care.
Arabic is the sixth most widely spoken language in the world and is becoming one of the most in-demand languages for people who work in government agencies, private businesses, and nonprofits in many different industries. Not to mention, it’s a highly desirable language for those in the military. So, encouraging your child to learn Arabic can help increase their chances of being successful in these fields.
How to Determine Which Language Your Child Should Learn
Here are some questions you should consider when deciding what language you should encourage your children to learn:
- What languages do they offer at your child’s school? Check what languages your child’s current school and other schools in the area offer to students. You may only have one choice, or you may have a few languages to choose from.
- Where do you live? You may find that the city, town, or neighborhood you live in has people who speak one foreign language more than others. For example, the Southwestern parts of the U.S., like Arizona and southern California, have high concentrations of Spanish speakers. While you don’t have to limit your child to the foreign language frequently spoken in your area, it does present more opportunities for your child to practice.
- Are there any cultural organizations in your area? If you’re living in an area with a high concentration of people who speak a certain language, your child may have more diverse opportunities to take lessons and practice the language with other speakers.
- Where do you travel to? If your family frequently travels to or is planning to travel to another country, you might consider guiding your child toward the language spoken there. That way your child has more opportunities to practice the language.
- What is your cultural ancestry? You might suggest to your child that they learn a language their ancestors spoke. This could even be a great motivation for the whole family to reconnect with that culture. If you or someone in your family speaks that language, ask for their help in teaching your child.
- What does your child want to be when they grow up? Your child may change their mind 10 times a day about what they want to be when they grow up, but if your child is really showing a serious interest in politics or business, then you might suggest a language that’s going to be incredibly valuable in those industries in the next 10 to 20 years.
You can jumpstart your child’s language learning journey by choosing a daycare, before- or after-school program, or preschool that offers foreign language in its curriculum. At Crème de la Crème, we teach baby sign language for infants and toddlers as well as Mandarin Chinese and Spanish to kids who are preschool-age and older. Contact your local Crème de la Crème school today to see how learning a second (or even third!) language can help your child thrive.