Benefits of bilingualism

Benefits of bilingualism

Woodstock students’ ability to speak more than one language and the importance of aerobic exercise in the school curriculum are two factors contributing to our young people developing the crucial life skill of self control.

So said Head of High School David Anderson in senior school assembly on Monday when expanding on an article which appeared in this weekend’s New York Times Sunday Review by two leading neuroscientists.

It said a child’s ability to develop self control is vital in building a basis for mental flexibility, social skills and discipline, and that often children in Asia develop these skills earlier than their Western contemporaries.

Mr Anderson said these attributes of self control were widely visible and encouraged in the Woodstock community. This is partly due to the fact that the school encourages bilingualism, and in many cases polylingualism, he said. Children who have been bilingual from an early age are able to make choices about which language to speak to a certain audience, giving them an advantage in developing decision-making skills.

In a similar way the large numbers of students learning musical instruments at Woodstock, a skill which also demands a degree of linguistic discrimination when interpreting music on a page into a note to play, also helps develop this crucial ability of self control, Mr Anderson added.

He also highlighted the importance of physical education in a child’s development, and how aerobic exercise was a vital part of the Woodstock curriculum, as exercise enhances brain activity and helps young people make better decisions than a “sedentary brain”.

The article also picked up on the theme of play, and said when children are encouraged to develop their passions and are challenged when pursuing their hobbies, self control can also be enhanced. Allowing children to make YouTube videos sparks their creativity and should be encouraged, rather than letting them just passively watch videos on the internet, for example.

Mr Anderson has just returned from a number of recruitment fairs in the United States where he was frequently asked “What are Woodstock students like?”.

He said: “I told them in very positive terms our students are among the best students I’ve ever been involved with, and this article gave me insights in understanding why they are such an exceptional group. It gave me a coherent framework to understand the depth of importance of things like polylingualism and aerobic exercise, which help refine their self control. Our student body incorporates these things already.”

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