Learning languages improves children’s career prospects

Peter Kotrc, CEO of Berlin Brandenburg International School, exhorts us to embrace the language opportunities that relocating to a new country brings and explains how to choose a school that develops them.

Learning languages improves children’s career prospects
Statistics have shown that the more languages we speak, the better the career options available to us. Language is a tool to unlock the world; through it we construct meaning and find our place in society says Peter Kotrc, director and ceo of Berlin Brandenburg International School (BBIS).

Endangered languages 

Language is a huge part of identity and embodies cultural heritage. Of over 6900 languages in the world, 30 per cent are in some form endangered according to UNESCO, with nearly five per cent having disappeared altogether since 1950. Preserving your native tongue is therefore of paramount importance.Understandably, many parents are worried when they move to a country that speaks a different language. The fear is that their child’s native language development will suffer when they are exposed to a new language. Often they are unaware that ‘monolinguals’ (individuals speaking just one language as oppose to ‘bilinguals’, those speaking two) are a global minority. According to ilanguages.org, only 40 per cent of the world’s population is limited to one language – speaking two or more languages is the norm.

Bilingualism staves off dementia

In addition to the prevalence of multilingualism, research has actually shown that the bilingual brain is more agile, and according to the Alzheimers Society, bilingual brains are more resilient to developing dementia caused by Alzheimer’s disease by, on average, five years. Canadian research has also revealed that bilinguals earn up to seven per cent more than those who are limited to only one language and – according to the World Economic Forum – in the US, demand for bilinguals nearly tripled in the labour market between 2010 and 2015.

Tips on passing on languages in the home

For children learning two languages from their parents, it is a tough stage from birth but the reward is a child who by the age of three or four has already acquired – without effort – the basics of two languages.In order to safeguard this development, each parent needs to ensure that they only speak their own language with the child, as consistency is key. Even if the family language is a minority in this world, it mustn't be neglected. Books, songs and stories are key for mobile families to ground their children in culture. Moving around, this family culture will stay with them. An apartment can be rented, but not cultural heritage.

International schools: language expertise

If you move abroad to a country with a different language, do not be concerned. If you choose an international school you will not only find the specialists for language acquisition and language learning, you will also discover that in quality schools, all teachers consider themselves teachers of the language of instruction (usually English).In addition, most good schools offer instruction in the host country language from an early age; this helps with integration outside the school. From Primary level onwards, good schools will pay attention to the development (and structured learning) of an academic language therefore, as the child progresses, they will be able to produce essays at an appropriate level.
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When checking the admissions information of a future school, try to find out how much attention and thus respect is paid to home languages. If it is just a replica of an American or UK school with no further linguistic awareness, you may find that you are missing out on the wonderful chance that relocation brings for the language development our your child. We don’t know a lot about the future of our planet but more languages are still likely to mean more chances in 2050.BBIS is a 700 student international English-Language IB Day and Boarding School, offering Early Education through Grade 12. It has extensive facilities at its campus in Berlin and was the first school in the world to provide all four IB programmes.BBIS logo

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