Seventy Barbadian youth, aged 7 to 11, started their journey to becoming bilingual yesterday.
This was facilitated through a new initiative of the National Library Service, in partnership with the Embassy of Argentina, called Online Conversational Spanish for Children.
Minister of Creative Economy, Culture and Sports, John King, was on hand to officially launch the programme, and congratulated the students for taking this first step.
Noting that Spanish is the second most widely spoken language in the world, Minister King stated that, increasingly, the ability to speak a second language was required, especially in the areas of international business, banking, trade and telecommunications.
“In today’s world, the demand for bilingual employees is increasing, and a candidate who speaks any second language is generally going to have an advantage when applying for a job. Learning Spanish is personally enriching, and is an advantage in almost all careers,” he said.
Pointing out that the course was a step in the right direction, the Culture Minister shared that research had shown that young children are ideally suited to learn a second language, since the language centre of their brain is still developing.
However, he stressed, there were other benefits to learning a second language. “I understand that bilinguals tend to be more creative thinkers; show greater reasoning and problem-solving skills, than those who speak one language.
“Our Spanish classes for children will significantly improve your child’s cognitive abilities, optimize their learning potential and provide numerous personal benefits, such as being able to communicate with someone in his or her language, and build lifelong friendships.
“Early literacy instruction in Spanish fosters language, as well as literacy development, and can give children a head start on learning to read in English,” Minister King explained.
The Culture Minster expressed his pleasure at the response to the course, which was over-subscribed the first day it was advertised. He stated that this was indicative of a definite community interest in exposing children to different languages.
This, he said, could open doors around the world for the young participants, and help them appreciate the way of life, customs, values, and cultures of people from many different countries.