by Roslyn Tam
As improvements in transportation and communication increase the interconnectedness of the world economy, the ability to communicate effectively across linguistic barriers has become a vital aspect of professional competitiveness and is creating new standards for education. Those who are fluent in multiple languages have more job prospects - and are particularly competitive when it comes to vying for positions of leadership. In addition to the direct benefits of being able to communicate in multiple languages, the mere act of studying foreign languages helps to develop cognitive skills and interpersonal skills that are key to organization and leadership roles.
According to Martha G. Abbott and Therese Sullivan Caccavale, the learning of languages is much easier at a younger age. When children are young, they have a natural curiosity and ability to pick up on linguistic concepts. Those who learn a second language from a young age have an easier time mimicking native pronunciation and phraseology, instead of maintaining heavy accents and incorrect constructions from their native language.
As people become older, they have to expend more time and effort to come to the same level of proficiency. However, one advantage that comes from learning a second language at high school age or later is that it is easier for students to learn complex grammatical concepts, as they have already studied such concepts for their native language by that point.
In addition to the efficiency aspect of early-stage language instruction, Abbott and Sullivan also claim that learning foreign languages from a young age helps to develop students' cognitive skills. Because such learning requires students to exercise their mental capacities in certain ways, it helps them to develop problem-solving and mathematical skills. The development of such skills can help students who assume leadership roles later on in life because it makes them effective organizational thinkers. Unlikely as it may seem, learning a second language imparts some skill sets, that allow leaders to more easily bring collections of people together and cause them to work in concert to perform a task.
Another advantage of learning a second language from a young age is the fact that it helps students to become more open to foreign cultures and ideas and not hold prejudices against people from different backgrounds. This can be a very important trait for those in leadership roles to develop, as the ability to look upon others fairly and treat them with equity is absolutely essential for any leader - especially a leader in education.
When people develop the ability to communicate in multiple language, it also adds to their ability to listen effectively and attentively in each language. This is another key skill for people in leadership roles because it is so important for them to receive reports, complaints, questions, and suggestions from a large number of subordinates.
To help students prepare for leadership roles by developing linguistic skills from a young age, schools must go to greater lengths to provide language learning opportunities. If a parent finds that his or her child does not have sufficient opportunities to learn a foreign language in school, they might turn to the vast amount of language teaching resources on the internet. Numerous publishers offer programs and materials designed especially for the purpose of teaching children foreign languages. Both teachers and parents should look at providing such opportunities for children as a responsibility, as doing so can have a positive impact on that child's development and life prospects.