This past Friday I attended the NYSABE conference. The New York State Association of Bilingual Educators conference. One of the themes was how speaking more than one language helps our brains to function differently and better. They were talking about synapses and neurotransmitters and how the brain makes more pathways when you learn more than one language. I don’t know all of the science involved, but I think that is very cool.
I have heard that before, but have always felt that what is important about learning another language is that better jobs are available, one automatically learns something about other cultures and for an avid communicator like me, I can now talk to more people in the grocery store.
Another speaker, a psychologist, gave us facts and figures about how, due to these new pathways in the brain, people who have had strokes can have less damage because the brain automatically uses the other pathways when the old ones have been affected by the strokes. As someone who has had four mini-strokes, I was astounded. I immediately thought that maybe this is one of the reasons that my strokes have not been worse.
Then last night I went to my grandson’s music concert. He is in the 8th grade and was chosen for All County Music for clarinet. One of the conductors spoke for a few minutes to thank the families for supporting their children’s music education. He went on to say that reading and playing music uses all parts of our brain. In addition to the enjoyment and pride of learning the language of music, students are better prepared to learn other subjects and to process thoughts and ideas more readily.
Thanks to the wonderful education that I received, I can read and speak English and Spanish fluently, know a smattering of French and am learning Kichwa, an Incan-based language. I can get a kick out of the fact that the French word “hotel” was borrowed by the Spanish to be the word “hotel” and English to be the word “hotel.” I was amazed to learn that in English we get our word “jerky” from the Kichwa word “charki.” And that in the movie Star Wars, the character of Greedo speaks to Hans Solo in Quechua/Kichwa in the bar scene.
Thanks to the wonderful education that I received I could transpose the bar scene music from Star Wars if I wished to do so. I don’t wish to do so, but I know how.
I see the passion for learning in my grandson. His talent for playing music is obvious. He is learning Spanish in school. But where languages are my area of true interest, his are in history and math. All because he is being well-educated.
There are a kazillion reasons why some students receive a better education than others. It is our job as citizens of the world to help ensure this education for all children. So that children become adults who think critically, who have a passion for learning in whatever area they are most interested, who can get good jobs in those areas of interest. To have children who are culturally aware and sensitive.
All children have the right to be blessed with a good education.