My little kids speak more languages than I can. But will they need it in 10 years?

Last year, Google announced that the quality of their automated language translation was approaching human-level.

And last month, Google demonstrated real-time language translation with the new Pixel 2. Mind-blowing, check it out!

It is safe to assume the quality and speed of translation is only going to be better and faster. Today, companies working on real-time translation ear-buds and brain implants.

Although it’s hard to imagine what the future in ten years will look like, there is a question some parents ask:

Will our children need foreign languages in 10-15 years?

If they are not English natives, then yes, they will need at least one foreign language: English. This goes without saying: English as a second language is not a nice-to-have anymore, it’s a must. I believe children should start with English already in kindergarten to be fluent.

Will they need to speak another foreign language? With all the tech advancement I believe there is no need for an additional language. The language barrier will dissolve when the ear-buds are translating whatever language in real-time.

I still encourage my kids to learn a 3rd and 4th language. It’s because I think we should be asking a different question:

Does a kid’s brain benefit from learning a 3rd or 4th language?

I think it does. The brain is like a muscle. The more you use it, the sharper and stronger it gets. Multilingual people have the advantage of having brains that are in good shape.

Studies have shown that the brain of a young child has several areas active in language acquisition, a capacity that is significantly diminished as he or she grows older. In other words, young children (ages 2 to 6) are very active receptors of the languages that surround them, a factor that means they can pick up a new language much easier than they will out of a high school textbook.

— Bob Hershberger, a professor of Spanish at DePauw University

Children younger than six have tremendous ability to learn, so why not to encourage it?

Photo by freddie marriage on Unsplash

Photo by freddie marriage on Unsplash

What’s next for us?

Today, I’m wondering if my kids should start with Mandarin, too. It would be their 5th language.

Chinese is one of the 2-3 languages I think it makes sense to learn going forward. Although it has three times more native speakers than English, it’s still not as evenly spread over the world. English and Mandarin are likely to dominate the world in 15 years.

💡 interesting additional reading: Mom’s experience: teaching my kids four languages.