You may be considering putting your child into French classes – whether in-school or outside it. But with so many conflicting sources, how do you know what’s worth the money?
While some say bilingual is best and others say tosh, it’s hard to know what to believe. What are the benefits of learning French anyway, especially outside of school? I mean the real benefits.
If your child is in French immersion, these added classes can seem like just another time constraint on your little one or your fun-seeking teen.
Well, actually, that may be the point. And this additional learning time can be the final push towards enhanced future opportunities, improved social and time management skills, promoting a love of learning, and having a positive impact on their current studies. Let’s take a look at the benefits of learning French.
Improved Cognitive Development
For many parents of bilingual children, this is one of the obvious benefits of learning French. The legend of the brighter bilingual child has circulated for decades, and most parents who have children in French immersion swear by it. But is there any truth in this?
Simply put, yes. Bilingual children show difficulty with spelling for the first year of combined language learning. However, this is temporary and bilingual children quickly outshine their monolingual counterparts. Club Petit Pierrot argues that “Students who are learning a foreign language out-score their non-foreign language-learning peers in the verbal and, surprisingly to some, the maths sections of standardized tests.”
And the research backs it up. Tim Johnson discussed the cognitive benefits of learning French with research professor, Ellen Bialystok of York University in Toronto. Professor Bialystok “has authored a number of studies in this area, and notes that the benefits of bilingualism include enhanced problem-solving skills.” She does suggest that these benefits of learning French require consistent exposure and engaged bilingualism. In other words, adding extra-curricular French to your child’s weekly schedule is a great way to capture these enhanced cognitive abilities.
Increased Confidence and Openness to Learning
If there’s one thing that early bilingual students share, it’s confidence in their abilities and an openness to risk-taking.
This makes sense. Students who are used to making errors will have a stronger grasp of the educational reward system. This can only come with making mistakes then fixing them with a tangible benefit – being able to communicate. This reduced fear of mistake-making boosts confidence. This plays in once more to children’s desire to belong to a greater community, making it perhaps one of the greatest benefits of learning French.
Moreover, their ability to communicate with a wider range of individuals encourages a more complete social confidence that monolinguals cannot achieve. This is especially true in Canada, where your child will gain the benefit of communicating with an even wider population of Canadians in their chosen language. Additionally, French is the base for a number of other languages, including Romanian, Portuguese, Italian, and Spanish.
Greater Future Opportunities: Education and Jobs
What’s the number one goal for parents? To give their children a safe, happy life, and to provide opportunities that they may not have had themselves. As the world embraces globalism and the breadth of possibilities for jobs and education in other countries widens, bilingual or multilingual adults have, hands down, greater potential.
The Ministère de l’Europe et des Affaires Étrangères says that “French is the second most widely learned foreign language after English, and the fifth most widely spoken language in the world” and that, beside English, it is the only other language that is taught in every country. France is, after all, the official language in 29 different countries. Fluency in the language drastically increases the number of places in which your child can work later in life or study abroad.
Furthermore, the Ministère goes on to explain that “French is both a working language and an official language of the United Nations, the European Union, UNESCO, NATO, the International Olympic Committee, the International Red Cross and international courts.” Further still, “French is the language of the three cities where the EU institutions are headquartered: Strasbourg, Brussels and Luxembourg.” The institutions are all regularly scouting for bi-and multilingual adults.
Finally, according to Johnson, a study by the Association for Canadian Studies “found that workers who speak both French and English earn almost 10 per cent more than those who speak English alone.”
Prepare for University with Time Management Skills
Balancing extra-curriculars with school is an excellent way to perfect time management. Joan Hawkins suggests that structured independent study outside of school teaches children to show up on time and to a set schedule. It teaches them to appreciate others’ schedules and manage their own.
These skills may not seem important now, but in college, university, and work these certainly are. These can make the difference between a shoe-in for honour roll and the promotion, and those who are struggling to compete.
Embrace Culture and Language Learning
For many, France is the epitome of culture. Speakers of the Language of Love, the peoples of France have produced, for centuries, some of the best food, grandest architecture, loveliest literature, most beautiful art, and avant-garde fashion. Their country is home of some of the richest history in the Western world. As such, they have a humour and a culture that cannot be fully enjoyed without an understanding of their native language. And those who do understand are in for a treat.
Adults and children who can speak French have greater travel opportunities. Not just around France – though that is benefit enough! – but around the world in a variety of cultures. According to the Ministère de l’Europe et des Affaires Étrangères, more than 300 million people across the globe speak French. There are 88 member States and governments in the international organisation of French speakers.
All of these benefits of learning French apply to you too! While you may not have the time to take French classes, engage with your child. Talk to them about what they’ve learned and let them show you. This will boost their comfort and confidence with the language. It will also motivate them to continue learning. Hawkins notes that “Research shows that when parents participate in an activity, their children will be more motivated to continue the activity even when parents are not with them.”
Children are social creatures. Joint participation speaks to their desire to belong to a community, while also encouraging a sense of pride in their achievement. Talk to Bryton when signing your child up for FranceABC about the ways you can stay involved in your child’s learning.