With so many beautiful languages in the world, which language should your family choose to learn?
What should you consider?
Culture? Proximity to native speakers? Opportunity to travel? Food?
(Let’s be real. Although food does not equate language, food has been a great cultural bridge and encouragement in my family’s language journey!)
My family fell into language learning by accident. My husband and I wanted to find a preschool that was less academic and more play-based for our son. That’s when we found a language immersion school! It was a great fit for our family—however, just when my daughter was about to enroll, we moved. My kids wanted to continue their language learning, so we enrolled in Kids on Mission (KOM).
KOM, an online language learning program, offers two popular language options: Mandarin and Spanish.
Here are some fast facts about two of the most popular languages in the world:
- When combining native and non-native speakers, there are 1.117 million people who speak Mandarin. It is the second most common language in the world.
- Mandarin is the official language of Mainland China, Taiwan, and Singapore. It is also spoken in Hong Kong, Macau, Malaysia, and Tibet.
- Many countries around the world have large Mandarin-speaking communities.
- In the U.S., New York City and Los Angeles have the largest Mandarin-speaking communities; although Cantonese and other Chinese dialects can be heard.
- Some prominent holidays celebrated in Mandarin-speaking countries are Chinese New Year, Lantern Festival, and Tomb Sweeping (Qingming) Festival.
- There are 559 million people, native and non-native, who speak Spanish.
- 20 countries have Spanish as their official language.
- The U.S. is home to the second-largest population of Spanish speakers.
- Although there are Spanish-speaking communities throughout the U.S., California, Texas, and Florida are the states with the highest population of Spanish speakers.
- Some prominent holidays celebrated in Spanish-speaking countries are Día de los Reyes (Epiphany), Día de Muertos (Day of the Dead), and Semana Santa (Holy Week).
Depending on where you live, choosing to learn a popular language is helpful because it gives you more options to practice and learn. However, if you want a more novel reason for choosing a language, you can take this hilarious language quiz for kicks and giggles.
Choose a language that genuinely interests you. Explore with your family the culture and food where that language is spoken. Watch movies and read books. Book a trip. Make friends who are native speakers. As your family gets to know about where a language comes from, they’ll have more motivation to learn the language.
Here’s what some other families had to say about how they chose their language and some of the unexpected benefits it has provided:
For us, it was Spanish. My husband is Puerto Rican. My in-laws do not speak much English and it’s hard for us to communicate. I wanted my kids to be able to freely communicate with BOTH sides of their family, without the use of a translator. I caught my husband and 4-year-old having a conversation in Spanish the other day and my heart just melted. -Nicki M.
I have relatives in Spain, and when I spent time with them growing up, I would always chide my mom for not having spoken Spanish to me as a baby – it’s so much harder to learn when you’re older! I decided I wasn’t going to make the same mistake with my children, who can now converse fluently with their Spanish cousins. Speaking Spanish has also brought a significant opportunity to serve our community.
Two years ago we became licensed foster parents. About nine months into our foster journey, DSS learned we speak Spanish (though not perfectly!). They started calling us first for nearly every Spanish-speaking child who comes into care, regardless of age or gender. We receive calls about Spanish-speaking children every month or two – we’ve gotten calls for an 18-month-old girl and a 17-year-old boy and all ages in between!
We currently have five foster daughters (in addition to our two biological daughters) – all are Spanish-speaking and of Hispanic origin. With such a houseful, we also often have to say no when DSS calls about new children, which breaks my heart. I know there are very few Spanish-speaking foster homes in the area where I live, so I know it is likely that the children we are not able to take will go to non-Spanish-speaking homes.
These kids have been through so much trauma already in their short lives. I am so grateful we are able to provide a safe home for our foster children where someone understands their language and their culture, and I wish that could be provided for every Spanish-speaking child in foster care. -Rachel L.
My son is third-generation Latino. His father was born in Australia and isn’t bilingual; but I wanted to raise my son bilingual so I decided, as a non-native speaker, to do it myself. It has been amazing because in the process my own Spanish has improved a lot, and we have made Latino friends. I incorporate the culture as much as possible, we listen to music in Spanish at home, and we always go to any Latin festivals which happen near us. -Sarah T.
Are you learning another language? What language do you want to learn? We’d love to hear your story! Share with us in the comments below.
Ready to start your language journey with KOM? Click here for more information.
Ashley Shannon | December 3, 2021