The BIG question-- WHY learn a second language?

spanish By Yvonne Erkelens

Have you ever wondered why you or your children should learn a second language? At what age should your child start learning a foreign language? Will doing so confuse them in their process of learning English correctly? When will they ever use it if no one they know speaks that language?

Yes, the questions can be limitless when it comes to learning a second language. As a Spanish teacher, I have been approached many times with these questions and more.

Reasons to learn a second language are many. Out of the seven billion people on earth, only about 400 million speak English as their primary language. That means that for native English speakers, bilingualism opens potential doors of communication to more than six billion people worldwide! Of course, this means greater opportunity for sharing the gospel! Learning a second language also increases problem-solving skills, expands the opportunity to make new friends, helps promote awareness of how other people think and feel, enhances travel experiences, and helps develop an appreciation for other cultures, music, and art. In addition, education and employment opportunities are multiplied for a person who speaks more than one language.

Let me share with you a little about myself and my own experience with learning multiple languages. I was born and raised in Guatemala, Central America. Naturally, Spanish is my native language; however, being born to German parents, and having attended international schools, I have mastered Spanish, German, and English.

I have three adult children of my own who learned three languages starting when they were just babies. Were there times when they got the languages mixed up? Absolutely, yes. Sometimes sentences would start in Spanish, followed by a few words in English, and maybe even finish up with a word in German. Was I worried? Not at all. I knew they were just absorbing as many words as they could and that eventually the day would come when they would be able to identify which word belonged to which language. And, in fact, I can testify that my adult children are masters of the English language but also are happy to be able to converse in both Spanish and German.

It is my joy and passion to have been able to teach Spanish to my students at Mission Hills Christian School these past six years. Here at MHCS, I guide the students in the same way I did my own. They are often surprised to discover that many of the words are similar to English. Each day I have the privilege of witnessing children learning new words in Spanish and realizing that learning a second language can be fun!