5 Reasons to Give Your Child a Bilingual Education

An education in more than one language offers your child lifelong advantages. The President of Lycée Français de Chicago explains.

In our global society, families increasingly see the value of a bilingual education. Students gain valuable skills, access to exciting study abroad programs and future employment opportunities.

Eric Veteau, President of Lycée Français de Chicago, a PreK to Grade 12 French international school, believes that a bilingual education has an invaluable lifelong impact on students.

“In addition to expanding their cognitive skills, children gain confidence and awareness when they learn multiple languages,” says Veteau. “Our students are well-prepared to adapt to many environments and cultures.”

Enhanced problem-solving, multitasking and creativity

Children who learn languages from a young age are able to switch from one language to the other, which increases their ability to problem-solve. “When you have to think in more than one language, it improves your analytical skills,” says Veteau.

The ability to think in more than one language also contributes to a child’s ability to multitask. “We find that even our youngest students gain an agility and ability to focus on tasks more quickly and efficiently. It expands their brain power, since each language requires a different kind of thinking,” Veteau explains.

Increased creativity is another bonus. Kids learn to think outside the box because they get a different view of the world. “We see that a child’s creativity improves through language,” says Veteau. “It has to do with how language is not just words, it’s also culture, art, literature and so much more.”

Improved memory and attention span

Anyone who has tried to learn more than one language knows that concentration and memorization make all the difference. For children, it improves their ability to memorize and learn.

“When you are a bilingual person, you switch from one language to the other all the time. Your brain is constantly searching for that word, whether it’s a simple or more complex response,” says Veteau. “Your memory evolves and improves.”

For some children, attention span can be difficult. Language helps with this, too. For one thing, switching to different languages throughout the day makes the brain focus, Veteau says. “It is a constant training of the brain to stay alert and ready to respond to whatever the language.”

A deeper understanding of subjects

Unique in Chicago, LFC offers the French Baccalaureate (PreK to 12) and the International Baccalaureate (Grades 9-12), with dedicated English and French pathways offered in high school, enhanced by German, Spanish and Mandarin options starting in 4th grade. All high school students at the LFC have the opportunity to graduate with either the French Bac or the IB diploma. They also receive an Illinois high school diploma.

These degrees, combined with a bilingual education, mean that students learn subjects in more than one language

“When students need to solve a math word problem in both French and English, for example, they are going to have to approach it from a different perspective. You have to learn to explain your answer in various languages and that develops thinking capacity.”

Cultural awareness and appreciation

One of the great benefits of a bilingual education is cultural awareness. At Lycée Français de Chicago, students get a multicultural approach in every subject, which gives a global perspective no matter the topic.

“We teach our students American history and social studies, but we instill an international perspective as well,” says Veteau.

This cultural awareness is also reflected in the materials that the students study. Literature, film and history are all shown from an international viewpoint. This approach encourages empathy, a respect for diversity and an understanding and appreciation for world cultures, says Veteau.

“We offer students the same materials in different languages. So, they may be reading about a historical event in English, French, German, Spanish or Mandarin. They may be learning about science in English, but the document they are studying is in French. This develops an understanding of other cultures and how they may view the same topics differently.”

A bilingual education is preparation for a globalized world

The Lycée Français de Chicago’s unique PreK to Grade 12 education stands out thanks to its immersive language experience. Accordingly, the school offers many opportunities for students to travel, study abroad and attend international sister schools. Students can further enhance the immersion experience by living with a family in a foreign country.

“There is nothing quite like living abroad for immersing yourself in a language and learning another culture,” says Veteau. “We know this is a key factor for language acquisition. Students gain confidence by learning to adapt.”

Another benefit? The ability to speak and understand other languages is an advantage to a student’s future career, explains Veteau.

“When you can communicate with others in their own language and don’t have to rely on translation, you gain respect and knowledge, establishing a more direct connection. That is a true impact.”

The benefits of a bilingual education are life-altering, according to Veteau. “Our students gain an openness to the world. They learn what language means and what is behind it. It makes them better equipped to navigate the challenging global society we live in.”

To learn more about the benefits of a bilingual education at Lycée Français de Chicago, visit lyceechicago.org.

Jennifer Kales
Jennifer Kales
Content editor Jennifer Kales has been in the business of writing for more than 20 years creating advertising copy, blogs, books and everything in between. She loves helping Chicago Parent clients tell their stories in a way that resonates with audiences.

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