At the Drongo Festival for Multilingualism in Amsterdam last month, One Globe Kids left discussions of all the high-level, career-improving benefits of speaking more than one language to the adults. Our activity in the KinderLab was a success because it focused on one thing:
More Languages = More Friends! The more languages you speak, the more friends you can make, the richer your life will be.
Kids may not fully understand the benefits of an improved ability to multi-task or remember lists or do better on standardized exams or ward of dementia or better career opportunities or the many other benefits of speaking more than one language.
But, ask a child to name a country they’ve never been to but would like to visit. Then ask them what language the children there speak. The advantage of speaking a second language is immediately crystal clear.
For very young children, a common language is far from a requirement for playing and fun. At three years old, my son Wim spent a long weekend climbing, chasing, and laughing with three-year old girl Nora from Norway. The closest word they had in common was ‘ja’ (the same word in Dutch and Norwegian means “yes”), but both cried when it was time to go home.
Yet the older we become, the more language plays an important role in our social interactions. Running around playground, whooping it up each in his/her own language is a blast. But when you want to play a game, laugh at a joke, or even cook together, a common language is really, really helpful.
One Globe Kids believes that early exposure to foreign languages lays the groundwork for openness to language-learning in the future. We believe that learning a new language happens most naturally and easiest when there’s an immediate benefit and someone to share it with.
This is why One Globe Kid’s Jenissa in Burundi encourages you to say ‘Yambu, izinaryanje ni ___’ (Hi, my name is ___) and Aji teaches you to count to ten in Bahasa Indonesia.
Children aren’t going to become fluent by recording themselves speaking Dutch with Lars or Creole with Gabou. But they will experience the positive benefits of increased confidence, communication and sharing, putting them happily on the road to multi-lingualism………probably without even them realizing it!
Stay Globe Smart, Anne Glick