Why Speak Two Languages?

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Why Speak Two Languages?

Jenna Johnson, Staff Writer

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For many years, scientific researchers believed that foreign children whose parents did not speak English as their first language, should only speak English at home. This was encouraged, due to a previous belief that teaching a child two languages would confuse them, and hinder their ability to learn English with fluency. New research suggests the opposite however. According to the Linguistic Society https://www.linguisticsociety.org/sites/default/files/Bilingual_Child.pdf , if a child begins to speaks two languages before the age of six or seven, the child’s ability to speak English will not only increase, but be better than a child who speaks English as their only language.

A student from Lindenhurst High School, who chooses to be anonymous, describes her experience growing up bilingual “Before I came to the US at the age of seven, I spoke Spanish as my first language. Being unable to speak English during that time made me feel confused, and isolated from my peers. When I became fluent in English, I was able to see the sides of two different cultures, and continued to speak Spanish at home.” By being able to speak both Spanish and English, this allowed her not only to maintain her culture, but also aided in learning a new culture. By continuing to speak Spanish at home, this by no means hindered her ability to learn English. For children whose parents do not speak English, or perhaps do not speak English fluently, it is important that one maintains their native language, in order to effectively communicate with family members.

In 1992, a study by the College Board discovered that students who had taken a foreign language scored higher on the English section on the SAT, than students who had not done so. Children who speak two languages, are able to grasp abstract concepts and information far better than kids who don’t. They are able to distinguish between various intonations and pitches in someone’s voice, in a way that allows them to effectively read another’s emotions. Speaking two languages as a child is different from how one would “learn” a language in middle school and high school. The language is equivalent to how one would “learn” to walk. They learn it through exposure and the need to do so in that specified environment.