Secrets to raising smart kids: Learn a language

Secrets to raising smart kids: Learn a language

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The benefits of learning a second language

Kids who learn a second language are more likely to communicate better, don't become frustrated as easily, and seek different ways of solving problems, according to the American Council on the Teaching of Foreign Languages.

"There's a lot of research that shows kids who learn a foreign language show amazing growth in cognitive skills, creativity, English, math, and science," says Ingrid Pufahl, Ph.D., a linguist and research consultant. "They're also better problem solvers and can think out of the box because they've been exposed to different points of view and different languages."

Pufahl adds that you don't have to be fluent in a second language to see the brain boost. "Even after studying a foreign language for a short time, you can start seeing benefits," she says.

What you can do

Whether you hope your child will become fluent or just want to expose her to another language, you have lots of options:

Sign up for a class. Your child's school might offer classes during or after school. If not, look for language programs offered by other schools, cultural centers, or city services.

Learn with family. If you're fluent in another language, use it frequently at home around your child, and encourage relatives to do the same.

Use an app. Plenty of apps that teach children English vocabulary can teach other languages, too. For example, The Very Hungry Caterpillar and Friends First Word app allows you to choose English, Spanish, French, or German as a primary or secondary language.

Watch a show. Snuggle up together on the couch to watch a kid-friendly bilingual show like Dora the Explorer (Spanish), Ni Hao, Kai-Lan (Mandarin), and Sesame Street (Spanish). When the show's over, start a conversation to encourage your child to use the new words she learned.

Listen and learn. Play music, read books, listen to audiobooks, and watch videos and shows in another language. Drive a familiar route with your child with voice navigation set in another language, and see if she can understand the directions.

Learn together. If you aren't fluent in the language your child is learning, study it yourself with programs like the Duolingo app or Rosetta Stone. Practice new vocabulary words with your child.

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