Happy St Andrew's Day!
Here at MPT, many of us are proud Scots, and indeed we are based out of the Highlands. As such our Scots heritage is very important to us, and the fact it is St Andrew’s Day got us to thinking about Scottish Gaelic, and how learning (or partly learning) it can be of huge benefit to our students – not just to pass on a valuable part of their heritage, but also as a way of developing their minds – and so we have decided to write our blog this week on just that – why being bilingual can be a huge benefit to young learners – even when the second language is not necessarily widely spoken!
The benefits of learning the Scottish Gaelic language
It gives students access to their heritage and culture. Scots have described heritage that they didn’t know was there being opened up to them and suddenly they see their culture in full colour instead of black-and-white.
You can begin to understand traditional Scottish songs. Until relatively recently Scottish traditions, culture, and stories were passed down orally, and that is best seen through traditional songs Gaelic singers often still adopt traditional styles, from the waulking song intended to keep spirits high as women worked to soften thick tweed, to heart-wrenching laments which could be dedicated to a lost lover or even to a lost way of life. There are a growing number of young Scottish folk who are choosing to sing in Gaelic, who younger children may like to follow – have you heard of Julie Fowlis (she sang on the soundtrack for Brave)?
You can tune into BBC Radio nan Gàidheal and understand what you hear! Having the radio in the background is a super way of ‘tuning in’ to a language – hearing it spoken as it is meant to be spoken as well as in a teaching/learning context.
The benefits of bilingualism in general
It can open up more careers. People who can state on their CV that they speak more than one language are much more likely to get the job – in fact, knowledge of another language is one of the top 8 requested skills on job advertisements!
It enhances more than just your language skills. It’s well known that learning another language makes extra connections in the brain. People who speak more than one language have improved memory, problem-solving and critical-thinking skills, enhanced concentration, ability to multitask, and better listening skills. They switch between competing tasks and monitor changes in their environment more easily than monolinguals, as well as displaying signs of greater creativity and flexibility.
It can help to stave off mental aging and cognitive decline. One of the most worrying things about growing older in the modern world is the likelihood of Alzheimer’s or dementia. At present, one of the best ways that we know of preventing these sorts of illnesses is to keep the brain active, and being bilingual is a fantastic way of doing this!
Learning one language makes it easier to learn another. Research has shown that children who have learned one language already find it easier to learn more. In a world which is getting smaller by the second, having a few different languages to be able to communicate in is no longer just a nice thing to be able to show off on holiday – it could be an integral part of life!