Top 5 Languages to Teach Kids in 2017 and Beyond

Baby with Abacus_zps0ied8hwvYou’ve decided on raising bilingual kids. But, which language are you going to add on? It’s not a simple decision. You can’t exactly line up a list of languages, then point and pick.

Maybe there’s a popular language in your community. Maybe your grandparents want your child to explore their native language. Or, maybe you want your child’s bilingual abilities to come in handy the older that they get.

If learning a language is something that you want your child to carry on throughout their life, the “critical languages” may be the way to go.

What are critical languages?

Critical languages are those that aren’t commonly taught. In other words, they aren’t the usual suspects (such as Spanish, French and German).

So, why are they critical? Obviously, Spanish is pretty useful – especially if you live in some of the southern areas of the U.S. Yet, it’s not necessarily a ‘critical’ pick. Why not?

 Well, even though critical languages aren’t the ones you’ll find in most high school or college classrooms, they are in high demand. Typically, these are languages where the demand exceeds the supply. This means that there is a greater need for critical language-speakers than there are people who actually speak the language. People who speak these languages fluently are needed to fill vital government positions (bother here and abroad) as well as by international businesses. The National Security Education Program (NSEP) is a federal initiative that focuses on the development of critical languages. The NSEP maintains a list of these languages, as it’s always subject to change (based on global needs, economics and the political climate).

Why teach critical languages to your child?

Your preschooler isn’t exactly jumping on a plane and flying half way across the world to work. At least, not yet. But, maybe someday they will. Learning a critical language now may give your child a competitive edge later on. Even though the “critical” list is ever-evolving, these are languages that those who are in-the-know predict will be essential for future government and business endeavors.

If you’re wondering why raising bilingual kids may mean teaching a critical language right now, it partially has to do with your child’s language aptitude. Young children may have an easier time picking up on some of these languages early on. In comparison, the romantic languages (French, Italian, and Spanish) are often easier to learn later in life. Not that your child shouldn’t learn a romantic language right now – but, it may not be as challenging to learn in high school or college as a critical language could be.

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As we head towards 2017, knowing which languages top the critical list is – well, critical! Understanding which languages are in high demand, but not often studied, put your child on a path that other kids may not get the chance to follow. So, what are experts predicting when it comes to critical picks?

1. Arabic (all dialects): Spoken by more than 250 million people worldwide, Arabic is primarily used in the Middle East and North Africa. While there are numerous different dialects in use, Modern Standard Arabic is typically most recognized across Arabic-speaking regions. Modern Standard Arabic may be the place to start when helping your child to learn this language.

2. Chinese (Mandarin): Mandarin is one of six official languages used by the UN. It’s the most widely spoken of languages and dialects in China, and is used in the majority of the country (that said, not all of China speaks Mandarin). There are several variations or subgroups of this language, including Northern, Northwestern, Southwestern and lower Yangtze River – based on the area where the dialect is used.

3. Japanese: It’s the official language of Japan! While your child may find it a challenge to learn all of the characters (and understanding the subject object verb word order), knowing this language may help your child to learn other grammatically similar ones such as Korean.

4. Korean: Spoken by more than 72 million people, it’s the official language of both North and South Korea. There are five different dialects in the South and one in the North. The alphabet consists of 24 main letters – with 14 consonants and 1o vowels. The written language may use a mix of some Chinese ideograms (Hanja) and the native Korean alphabet (Hangul).

5. Russian: Russian isn’t just spoken in Russia. It’s also spoken by some people in the Ukraine, Belarus and Kazakhstan. It belongs to the Slavic group, and is one of the official UN languages. Some learners find the Cyrillic alphabet a challenge. But, it may be easier for your child to learn at a younger age (instead of waiting until high school).

What “critical language” do you feel is important for your child to learn? Share your choice with us in the comments!

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