Deciding to raise your child speaking a first and a second language is a major parenting decision, but choosing which second language to teach him or her is another important one. Aside from cultural heritage, the personal preference of the parent, and popularity of the second language, which will have economic and social benefits in the future, there are many other factors that influence this choice. Thanks to books like The Adventures of Bosley Bear series that make language options available, parents can have an idea where to begin.
According to Ethnologue 17th edition, the top five most popular languages in the globe are Mandarin (Chinese), Spanish, English, Arabic and Hindi. There are approximately 1.92 Billion people in the world who speak Mandarin while there are only 406 Million for Spanish and 335 Million for English.
Imagine being conversational in Mandarin alone, you have the opportunity to exchange ideas with 882 Million people in the world! Although quite challenging to learn, much more to teach, this language does have the upside of having no grammatical rules on subject-verb agreements and tenses. Mandarin also has an exceptionally easy numbering system. As Malcolm Gladwell pointed out in his book Outliers, this is the reason Chinese children are usually exceptional in Math. Besides being able to soak in the rich culture of China, learning Mandarin is a secret weapon to building business relations. Chinese entrepreneurs are more comfortable and more willing to discuss business, especially when it comes to discounts and long-term relationships, when the other party is fluent in their mother tongue.
Perhaps because Dora the Explorer has become a household name, but Spanish is another language worth looking into. Back in 2007, The Pew Hispanic Center said that 22% of minors in the United States were Latin Americans. It undoubtedly has continued to grow. There are several career fields such as Healthcare and Education that are highly influenced by English-Spanish speakers. Several businesses in the US specifically target the needs of Spanish-speaking consumers as well as employ Spanish-speaking staff. In school, being an exploradora of the Spanish language can help children build deeper and more meaningful connections with their Spanish-speaking peers.
Of course, English is a major global language and the ESL industry is continuously booming. It is the most common language used to communicate cross-culturally. Foreigners who take English as a second language tend to experience an obvious and immediate career boost. It is the language of the Film Industry, and most of the important scientific or literary texts are in English or are translated into English for wider distribution. The system of the language has similarities with several other foreign languages as well, making it easier to acquire.
According to Forbes.com, there was a 127% increase in the college enrollment for Arabic between 2002 and 2006 due to the very high demand. On their side of the world, Arabs are opening up countless lines of potential international business opportunities. Choosing to educate your child in Arabic is a very diplomatic decision as well. It gives your child the opportunity to build positive relations with the Arab community whether it would for trade purposes or cultural exchange purposes.
There are is an endless list of wonderful things you can learn from Hindi culture from religion, architecture, old civilizations, Bollywood films and many others. Learning Hindi will help you find your way to the Taj Mahal if you ever decide to travel to the splendid country of India. The economic growth of the country is unstoppable and predictably, several of the future people of influence, within the generation of today’s children, will be Hindu-speaking.
The languages listed above are only the Top 5 most commonly spoken languages as of today. The 6th down to the 10th most commonly spoken ones are Portuguese, Bengali, Russian, Japanese and lastly Javanese. Other languages worth looking into are French and Italian.
Whichever language a parent chooses for their child, what is most important is to teach it with discipline and to impart to the child to respect and in some ways integrate the culture where that language is from. This may be a monumental task, but if we kept in mind what the philosopher Ludwig Wittgenstein said, “The limits of my language mean the limits of my universe”, then we can also keep in mind that the challenges of teaching will be far outweighed by the wonderful experiences the child will have in the entirety of his lifetime.