Foreign Languages Your Child Should Learn

With a plethora of foreign languages to choose from, read on to find out why it is important to learn a new language and which of these prove to be a hit with youngsters.

By Shashwathi Sandeep

Foreign Languages Your Child Should Learn

❝The limits of my language are the limits of my world.❞

‒Ludwig Wittgenstein, Austrian-British philosopher

What Ludwig Wittgenstein said is true in more ways than one in today's world. Knowledge of a new language is an asset, and more so for today's youngsters. “Cognitively, childhood is the best time for someone to learn any language, as that is the most receptive phase for the human mind. Apart from it being an additional life-skill, it also enables children to be more creative (as these two factors are strongly linked). It pushes the child’s brain to look at every spectrum of life in a unique and different way whilst enhancing their communication and interpersonal skills as well,” says Lina Ashar, Founder, Kangaroo Kids Education Ltd.

There was a time when the only foreign language we knew was French. Well, the times have changed. German, Spanish and even Japanese is becoming popular among children. Let’s understand how learning these languages can benefit your child.

French

This language evolved out of the Gallo-Romance dialects spoken in northern France.

It is the official language of over 40 countries and is the official language of many international organisations such as the UN (United Nations), WTO (World Trade Organization) and ISO (International Organization for Standardization).

A variety of products from several international French brands such as Louis Vitton, L'Oreal, Michelin are now available in India. Also, many of them are setting up their regional offices in India and other parts of the world. In such a scenario, as far as job prospects are concerned, the ability to speak French would give your child an advantage over the others. Also, French is simpler to learn as almost 50% of English words have their roots in French.

Spanish

Spanish is derived from a dialect of spoken Latin that evolved in the north-central part of the Iberian Peninsula. A written standard was developed in the cities of Toledo and Madrid. Today, it is the official language of 20 countries, as well as one of the official languages of numerous international organisations, including the United Nations.

“The Hispanic world offers endless opportunities in every field. It is one of the most phonetic languages in the world, which makes it a relatively easier language to learn. Spanish music, which is considered to be ‘happy music’ is so popular these days; that makes it the most favourable youth language,” explains Kinjal K Palrecha, a Spanish and German instructor from Bengaluru.

Japanese

During the Heian period, the Chinese exerted considerable influence over the vocabulary and phonology of Old Japanese. It was only during the Late Middle Japanese that the changes made brought the language closer to its modern form.

Over 200 Japanese companies are currently operating in India. These companies need a large number of interpreters and translators, as Japanese are reluctant to speak English or any other language. “The Global 30 program has also boosted the number of students willing to learn the language. They offer full scholarships to students and their universities are on a par with any university in the US or UK. Apart from that, animated cartoons like Naruto, have also piqued their curiosity and influenced children to learn Japanese,” says Priya Amarnath, a Japanese instructor from Bengaluru.

Japanese comes from an entirely different language root, so, it takes a little more time to learn. “But, once you have learnt the basics, it becomes very easy to converse in. We have children as young as five years of age learning the language,” says Priya.

German

The vocabulary of this language derives extensively from the ancient Germanic branch of the Indo-European language family. A portion of German words are derived from Latin and Greek, and a few borrowed from French and English.

“Many students choose Germany for its development and economic stability and expertise in technological, automobile and machinery manufacturing industry. In terms of higher education, Germany provides a foundation level programme for foreign students to learn its language in order to make their daily life and interaction easier. In fact, some universities offer their syllabi in their respective language itself,” says Sanjeev Rawat of Langma School of Languages, Delhi.

It might seem complex in the beginning, but the language is a lot easier than French. It is very similar to English. One of the similarities is that they use the same basic script as Latin. The grammar part will be a little difficult to understand, but once you grasp the idea, it's really simple to frame the sentences in German. A unique quality of German is that you pronounce the word exactly the way you spell it. This reduces the chances of making errors while spelling the word.

While these are the languages that are popular among parents and children, languages like Russian, Chinese and Italian are also gaining importance. It is important for children to pick up a couple of foreign languages. “As we make ourselves citizens of a global village, children and youth are the ones most affected by the changes. Learning foreign languages is the need of the hour,” explains Priyanka Rajoria, Assistant Professor, MIT-ADT University, Pune.

Learning a language is a fun and an enriching experience. This take on learning languages by Avlokita Shah, founder of AlivIndia, sums it all up. “Foreign languages need not mean languages outside India. Living in Mumbai, languages like Telugu and Kannada are foreign to me. Children need not limit themselves to just two or three languages. It is important to teach children to never look down upon any language. It is a means for a community to connect, engage, be heard and raise their voice. Children must never grow up to dominate a language over others but to keep engaging in a new one constantly."

Institutions offering courses in foreign languages

FRENCH: Alliance Francaise, Amity School of Foreign Languages (in all major cities of India)

SPANISH: Instituto Hispania, Langma School of Languages (Chennai, Mumbai, Delhi, Bengaluru, Pune)

JAPANESE: ABK-AOTS DOSOKAI (Chennai), Department of East Asian Studies (Delhi)

GERMAN: Max Mueller Bhawan (Bengaluru, Chennai, Kolkata, Mumbai, New Delhi, Pune), School of Language, Literature and Culture Studies (JNU)

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