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THE FOREIGN SERVICE JOURNAL

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JUNE 2017

99

A

ny Foreign Service employee would agree that one

of the joys of Foreign Service life is to experience

the language of the host country. In fact, many

argue that learning the native language avails Foreign

Service families of countless opportunities for personal

and cultural enrichment. And who among us learns that

language with the most ease and gusto? That’s right; it’s

our Foreign Service youth.

While English-speaking education is available at most

posts worldwide, more and more Foreign Service families

are choosing to educate their children in a language other

than that spoken at home. To find out more about this

trend and to uncover the advantages and challenges of

educating a child in a foreign language, the Family Liaison

Office spoke to Regional Education Officer and Office of

Overseas Schools resident language expert, Christine

Brown.

Family Liaison Office:

What are the advantages and

potential pitfalls of raising a bilingual child?

Christine Brown:

Over the last 15 years there has been

much research conducted on the benefits of learning one

or more languages. Scientists have noted that new neural

pathways are formed when children learn and use more

than one language. It appears that the more complex the

second language, the greater the neurological gain. The

science suggests that learning linguistically complex lan-

guages or multiple languages from an early age into adult-

hood may give a profound cognitive boost.

Researchers outside the United States have also looked

at the impact that learning other languages has on one’s

native language ability, especially in the areas of reading

comprehension, executive brain functioning (memory,

reasoning, problem solving) and creativity.

Marybeth Hunter is the education and youth specialist

in the State Department’s Family Liaison Office. Christine

Brown, a regional education officer, is the Office of Overseas

School’s resident language expert. This is excerpted from

their

full-length interview in the December 2015 FSJ.

FROM THE DECEMBER 2015

FSJ

EDUCATION SUPPLEMENT

Multilingual Matters—How Foreign Service Students

Can Make the Most of Language-Rich Experiences Abroad

BY MARYBETH HUNTER AND CHRISTINE BROWN