The Far-Reaching Benefits of Speaking Two Languages
The seventh century emperor and polyglot, Charlemagne, famously said, "To have another language is to possess a second soul." How fortunate it is that our boys at SAA have an opportunity to “possess a second soul” in their attainment of learning a second language!
 
Living in San Antonio, our boys have a unique opportunity to be surrounded by the vibrant culture of our amazing city. We are immersed daily in a tapestry of bright colors, fiestas, and the sounds of the rich Spanish language. We were reminded just last year of the enduring presence of our historical ties with Spain and México when the City of San Antonio celebrated our Tricentennial. There is no doubt that our boys are poised to enrich their lives immeasurably by learning Spanish at SAA.
But, what exactly are the benefits of learning Spanish? For starters, studying a language can actually increase your vocabulary. The study of Spanish (a Romance Language) can improve the knowledge of your own native tongue and increase your language skills. The evidence of this is seen when students are administered college admission tests such as the SAT and ACT. “Research has shown that math and verbal SAT scores climb higher with each additional year of foreign language study, which means that the longer you study a foreign language, the stronger your skills become to succeed in school. Studying a foreign language can improve your analytic and interpretive capacities.”1
 
Learning Spanish can also increase your brain power and aid in executive function. Based on studies, learning another language offers proven benefits for intelligence, memory, and concentration. It may also prevent or delay the development of Alzheimer’s Disease and Dementia.2
 
Our boys at SAA have an exceptional advantage to learn a second language because they begin to do so starting in Pre-K. Cognitive gains result from acquiring a second language at a young age. These cognitive benefits can contribute to a child's future academic success, according to studies at the Cornell Language Acquisition Lab.3 Another easily apparent benefit, is the fact that young boys can adopt a near-native and natural accent and pronunciation. During the early childhood years, the foundations for thinking, language, vision, and attitudes are established. Our young scholars are primed for optimal language learning.
The study of a foreign language can also help boost your son’s confidence as he begins to feel proficient in his newly acquired language skills. Your son can also gain a better understanding of a new culture and make comparisons with his own. Additionally, he can reap the rewards of learning Spanish within the realm of his social abilities. One study published in the journal Psychological Science shows that multilingual children can be better at communication than monolingual children.4  Young children who have been raised bilingual can also develop a greater sense of empathy and social-emotional skills.5
 
San Antonio is considered to be a gateway to Latin America. With the newly signed USMCA trade agreement, the possibilities for global employment and entrepreneurship have increased. Thirty-one percent of business executives speak two languages, according to a 2009 Korn/Ferry International Poll. I personally know of two recent college graduates that were being considered for employment by a local Fortune 500 company. When comparing their résumés side-by-side, the graduate with Spanish speaking skills was hired over the non-bilingual Ivy League student.
 
Finally, your son can use his Spanish language skills to broaden his repertoire of leisure activities. This includes enjoying art, literature, music, film, and travel. Being able to communicate with native speakers while traveling will always result in a warm welcome and will enrich his experience while abroad.
 

I often remind my own students of the fact that if you can speak English and Spanish you can communicate with eighty percent of the world! In an ever-increasingly global community, the ability to communicate with people all over the world is essential. My hope is that our boys at SAA gain the valuable communicative skills necessary to enrich their lives, make cross-cultural connections, and use Spanish as a pathway to success in different areas of their daily life, all while gaining a second soul.

 
Sources:
1 - Center for Languages, Literatures, and Cultures; Ohio State University
2 - Mayo Clinic
3 - Lust & Yang
4 - Keysar, Liberman, and Fan
5 - Cambridge University Press, 2003
 
 

ABOUT THE AUTHOR:
 
Iliana Hieger Spanish Department Chair; Primary School Spanish Teacher
Señora Hieger has taught Spanish in the SAA Primary School since 2004. Mother of two bilingual teenagers; her son, Andrew, is an Academy grad, Class of 2015. 
 

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