How the early learning of languages can develop social skills in children

Post written by: Trisha Collins-Dunbar.

Research by the British Council has shown that three-quarters of adults in the UK cannot hold a conversation in a foreign language. When there are budget cuts in schools there does appear to be a tendency for the language departments to be one of the first hit! By independently teaching your children a second language early in their life you are giving them a cognitive advantage over monolingual children and setting them up for success. This article is going to focus on the soft skill benefits that come with learning a second language.

Studies have shown that the next generation are more self-obsessed with less social skills than previous generations. There is a real need for people skills, but by introducing your children to languages early on you are developing these skills. People skills are classed as soft skills and give an indication of high emotional intelligence. Soft Skills are something that is much needed in today’s society and can have a huge impact on the success your children will attain later on in life. Skills such as being a good listener and having a positive, growth mindset are all signs of soft skills. The good news is soft skills can be taught and an excellent way to develop these skills is via learning a new language.

Here are 10 simple ways for developing soft skills with your children during language learning…

 

10 Simple Tips for Developing Soft Skills in Children.

1. Spending Time Together. When you are teaching your child a new language who are spending time with them and giving them your full focus and attention. You are also working on communication skills and developing social interaction skills. You can help them improve their active listening skills and pronunciation by reading books together or playing a familiar game. For example, my child and I play Snap in Mandarin and Guess Who in Spanish. It makes language learning and developing social skills fun.

2. Accepting Feedback. Whether good or bad, feedback is absolutely vital for success. For example, you can not progress if you are unaware of what you are doing wrong! Teach children that accepting constructive feedback isn’t scary or something to get defensive over it should be welcomed with open arms. Constructive feedback can be a friend rather than an enemy and it will enable them to grow and make positive changes not just in language learning, but life in general too.

3. Developing Focus.  In today’s fast pace gadget-crazed world the average attention span has dropped to an all-time low. If you can help improve their focus of attention this will give your children a great advantage in life. Get your children to focus on just one task for about 10 – 20 minutes, then take a short break before returning to the task for another 10 – 20 minutes. Check out 10 Tips for Mindful Language Learning to help improve the focus of your children.

4. Developing Manners. In my personal experience, people aren’t always aware of how they are actually treating others. To be more self-aware, courteous and well-mannered will attract the right support and children will find that when they are at school teachers and peers will want to support them more. Different cultures have different mannerisms and courteous behaviors by teaching another language you are also teaching your children how to respect other cultures. ‘Please’, ‘Thank You’ and ‘excuse me’ are among the first (and most important) new words learned in a language.

5. Confidence.  Helping your children set goals and achieve them means you are sowing the seed for confidence later on in life. If they can speak another language then their natural curiosity will take over and they may wonder what else they are capable of learning.

6. Continuous Improvement. Continuous development is important and by setting time for language learning you are showing your children the importance of self-development and improving their abilities.

7. Interpersonal  Skills. Learning a new language will help get your children comfortable communicating with people from all different backgrounds. This is a very important skill for your children to acquire and will also help them to develop an open mindset where they will be comfortable in communicating on all levels and even in multiple languages too. Interpersonal skills will be a real asset when seeking employment later in life.

8. Develop a Positive Mindset. “You can’t have a positive life with a negative mindset” Negativity especially when applied to language learning will get you nowhere. If anything a negative mindset is the most common reason why people quit learning a language. Develop a growth mindset in your children. Show them what they can be truly capable of if they put the effort into it. Positive people often seek out new opportunities without the fear of if they will be successful or not. They see it as fun and exciting.

9. Set Goals. You want to be a successful language learning and achieve, then you must have specific goals. Teaching your children how to set goals and even pivot if they don’t appear to be working will show them to become more productive.

10. Problem Solving Skills. By learning new language children are developing their problem-solving skills. If a method isn’t working for them. Change it. Simple. Teach your children that they will always get the same results if they always do the same thing.

 

Bonus:  Patience.   Things will not always go to plan and that’s okay. Some days children will make more progress than other days. This is okay and a natural part of the learning process. Talk to them about how they are feeling and inform them that at times they may feel angry or frustrated with the progress they are making. By practicing poise, calmness and talking about feelings you will help your children be better at managing their stress levels for when they get older.

As you can see, soft skills develop as a consequence of language learning. Languages evolved from our need to be social! However, It is a two-way process as soft skills also make us more efficient learners!  If you can do this then you will be priming your children for success later on in life!

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Trisha has a postgraduate diploma in research,  a BSc (Hons) in Psychology and a diploma in Cognitive Behaviour Therapy. She is the founder of Language Learners Journal a blog dedicated to empowering and promoting independent language learning via a more holistic approach in the UK and beyond. She is also a writer and supporter of promoting good physical and mental wellbeing via mindfulness, sleep hygiene, nutrition, and exercise. You can find Trisha on her official Facebook Page and Twitter.