As we plan for the next school year, we carefully choose the subjects we want our children to learn. We know math and English are important, so we research which curricula are best for each student based on how they learn, what other parents have said and what the reviews report. We often struggle to make it through all the subjects that are important to a well-rounded education, so how can we justify having our children study a foreign language? Here are a few great reasons:

Learning a foreign language increases cognitive development. "Cognitive" refers to the mental ability necessary to carry out any given task. If it's not used, cognitive ability can decrease, but when it is used, cognitive ability increases. Learning a foreign language increases a student's skills in creativity, memory, reading development, attention control and problem solving.

Learning a foreign language increases capabilities in other academic areas. This is true even in an individual's primary language. So as students learn another language, their reading ability in their primary language will increase as well. In addition, these students often get better at grammar, social studies, math and science.

Learning a foreign language helps with college entrance requirements. If your student is aiming for college admission, foreign language study is a common requirement.

Learning a foreign language is linked to better performance at a college level. Those who are bilingual often perform better in college. They also generally perform better on SAT and ACT tests. The longer someone has studied a foreign language, the higher his
scores tend to be, especially on the reading and vocabulary sections of the tests.

Learning a foreign language increases cultural awareness. Along with learning a new language, students gain exposure to another culture. This heightens awareness of
different cultures in general, giving the student a broader perspective about the world and improving the student's interaction with people from other backgrounds. Students also learn more about the countries where the language is spoken and the people who live there.

Learning a foreign language opens employment opportunities. In an increasingly global society, learning a foreign language can open employment opportunities in the United States and abroad.

Many Studies show that many of these benefits come regardless of which language a student studies. An early start is beneficial and increases your student's chance of a high level of language proficiency. The younger the child, the easier it is to acquire a foreign language. Part of this is due simply to time. If a child is younger when he or she begins to study a language, there are more years available to learn, and the child is more likely to reach an advanced level of language study.

These are just a few of the benefits of studying a foreign language. I am looking forward to experiencing the ways foreign language study will affect our family as we learn together in the coming year and beyond.

Joanne Mueller enjoys life in Oregon where she and her husband homeschool their two young children. She works part-time from home providing writing and editing services. She can be reached at

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