Published: May 27, 2021
In Canada, where bilingualism is a lived reality for millions of people and an official federal government policy, the most obvious benefit of learning French as a second language is financial.
Being bilingual in French and English increases your career opportunities and earning potential. Bilingualism is required, or at least preferred, for a substantial number jobs in a variety of fields and industries — and not only in government.
Even if a job doesn’t require its employees to be bilingual, being bilingual never hurts. On the contrary, it increases an applicant’s chances of getting hired.
According to popular opinion, pursuing studies in STEM is the surest way to open up many lucrative career doors. But language, too, is in high demand. Degrees in English, Languages, Communications, and Journalism teach critical thinking and writing skills, which are necessary in many fields.
Students who graduate from post-secondary education with these skills are not only prepared to communicate effectively in the workplace, but they are also trained to analyze information in subjects they didn’t study, such as finance or IT, and communicate this information clearly. This gives them an edge up on students who graduate from STEM or STEM-related postsecondary programs, where communication skills aren’t prioritized.
There are many reasons why it is important build language skills in a bilingual country like Canada — as noted, learning French as a second language increases one’s chances of being hired, and can help you stand out from the competition in a job interview. But in addition to the economic benefits of bilingualism, there are also cognitive and social benefits.
In this article, we will explore all of the benefits of learning a second language, and provide some tips for how tutors can make learning a second language easier.
Cognitive Benefits of Learning a Second Language
In doctoral programs in the humanities, it’s traditional for students to learn a second language. The tradition makes a lot of sense: learning a second language is good for the brain. Bilingual or multilingual students tend to score higher on standardized tests, such as the MCAT, the GRE, or the LSAT.
In addition, learning a second language can improve:
- Focus and attention span
- Problem-solving skills
- Executive function (e.g. shifting, planning, and updating)
- Critical thinking
- Language sensitivity (the ability to distinguish languages you’ve never heard before)
- Brain growth
- Flexibility (the ability to shift between different mental states)
- Ability to multitask
- Listening skills
Furthermore, once you have finished learning a second language, it becomes easier to learn another. Learning a new language may help prevent cognitive decline in old age. And learning a second language can also improve proficiency in one’s native tongue.
It may seem ironic, but the discipline of mastering French grammar and French vocabulary can help native speakers of English understand their own language better.
Social Benefits of Learning a Second Language
In addition to the practical and cognitive benefits of learning a second language, there are many social benefits of being bilingual as well.
Learning a second language such as French increases social flexibility—the ability to adapt to new environments, read social cues, get to know more people, travel and work in more places across the globe, and switch between different social skill sets.
Learning a new language helps you see the world in different ways, from different points of view. Bilinguals, unlike monolinguals, are able to apply concepts and nuances that are unique to one language to another.
Moreover, bilingualism may also increase empathy; bilinguals may be better at suspending their own beliefs and emotions to concentrate on another person’s point of view.
Learning a Second Language Doesn’t Have to Be Difficult
The thought of learning a new language at the secondary level can be intimidating. It’s one thing to learn a language when you’re a child, the thinking goes, and quite another thing to learn a language during adolescence and afterward.
Although there is some truth to this, it’s very possible, and not as difficult as you might think, to master high school French even if you’ve never studied French before.
For anglophones living in Quebec, French tutors in Montreal offer one-on-one lessons, in person and online, and can help unlock the benefits of learning a second language for kids who don’t speak French at home.
Unlike in a typical high school classroom, where French teachers tend to prefer one teaching method over others and assign the same homework to all students, in-person and online tutors in Ontario and Quebec customize their teaching style and assigned work according to students’ particular needs and expectations. Expert language tutors provide a safe learning environment where students can make mistakes and build their confidence without fear of judgment. Tutors understand the pedagogy of linguistics and can incorporate modern methods for language acquisition into private lessons.
Fluency Means More than Academic Success
It’s important for students who understand the value of learning French as a second language to understand the difference between academic success and fluency.
Though academic success in French is valuable, a handle on grammar, vocabulary, and literacy will only get a student so far. Being fluent in French means being able to speak and engage with native French speakers, navigate French places and countries, and understand French customs and social norms.
The best way to become fluent in French is to not only study the language academically, but also to immerse yourself in the language. But it can be quite difficult for native English speakers in Ontario, and even native English speakers in Quebec, to find opportunities to converse in French, but French tutoring in Toronto can help give students the opportunity to converse in French without the fear of making mistakes, with the goal of becoming fluent.
Most people in the world speak more than one language. In North America, however, it’s quite common to speak only one, and Canadian students outside of Quebec are often at a disadvantage when it comes to mastering French as a second language.
The one-on-one support offered by a French tutor can play a crucial role in helping students gain practical fluency, so if you are interested in giving your kids access to the benefits of learning a second language, call Prep Academy Tutors today.