Promo code applied. Proceed to the checkout and enjoy your discount. Promo code applied, discount shown at checkout*

*Valid for Monthly subscriptions and Marathon courses.

Written by: Jakob Straub

Survey: 85% of US language learners want their children to speak more than one language

Language learning for children is important: A majority of adult language learners in the US relate it to success in life and therefore want to encourage their children to learn a foreign language as well.

The no. 1 digital language school Lingoda polled over 600 US language learners aged 20 years and older and currently studying English, Spanish, French or German using a paid learning method.

85% of respondents said they want their children to learn more than one language outside of school requirements.  Meanwhile, 88% of those polled said that knowing another language is essential to achieving success in life.

Below, we’ll provide an analysis into how important different age groups rate language learning and how it relates to success in life for them. Find out about the primary motivators and major challenges for language learners and get useful tips for helping children learn a second language.

Key survey insights

85% of the survey participants said they’d actively encourage children to learn more than one language. Male respondents agreed more often with this claim (91%) than female respondents (80%)
A large majority of respondents (88%) said you need to know a second language to achieve success in life.
Social reasons are the main motivation for language learning for 83% of survey respondents.
61% of those polled want to improve their language skills for work or their career

Encouraging children to learn languages is especially important to older respondents

Among respondents polled in our survey, 85% said they would actively encourage their children to learn more than one language outside of school requirements.

In addition, almost 90% of participants said that it was “very important” (29%) or “important” (60%) for children to speak more than one language. The survey also found that older respondents were more likely to agree that language learning was highly important: of those aged 51 years and older, 48% said that it was “very important”, a significant increase compared to no more than 30% among the younger demographics.

  • Respondents aged 20-30: 86% viewed the claim as very important or important
  • Respondents aged 31-40: 92% viewed the claim as very important or important
  • Respondents aged 41-50: 88% viewed the claim as very important or important
  • Respondents aged 51+: 83% viewed the claim as very important or important

Percentages of 614 US residents aged 20 years and older and currently studying English, Spanish, French or German using a paid learning method.

Language learning in relation to success in life

When asked if speaking more than one language was necessary to achieve success in life, 88% of survey participants said it was “very important” (27%) or “important” (61%).

Agreement with this claim stayed relatively consistent over the age groups polled, with the exception of language learners aged 51 years and older: only 58% of them viewed the claim as very important (23%) or important (35%).

Language learning motivators as reported by 614 US residents aged 20 years and older and currently studying English, Spanish, French or German using a paid learning method.

The response of people in the age group of 51 years and older is surprising, especially since they placed such a high importance on children speaking more than one language, a seeming contradiction.

However, given their life experience and age, it could be that they viewed themselves as successful regardless of language skills. That they place high importance on knowing another language could then be an acknowledgement of changes in the labour market where language skills help candidates stand out and can be a requirement for global positions and remote teams. Lingoda did not ask participants about their careers or definition of success, so this remains speculative.

Language learning motivators and reasons for studying

When Lingoda asked the survey participants to list their top motivational factors for learning a language, social and work-related reasons prevailed. 83% of respondents said their learning was socially motivated, while 61% said work was the most important factor.

The following are the survey’s top five net factors for language learning motivation. Participants could choose individual answers under these categories.

  1. Social reasons: 83%
  2. Work-related: 61%
  3. Language learning as a hobby: 47%
  4. Studies: 18%
  5. Relocation and integration: 17%

The top three individual answers included one response related to culture and two related to work:

  1. 27% of survey participants responded that their language learning efforts were “To advance in my career / get a promotion”
  2. 26% or survey participants said they were learning a language “To learn about new cultures”
  3. 25% of respondents wanted to study a language “To communicate better at work”

Language learning motivators as reported by 614 US residents aged 20 years and older and currently studying English, Spanish, French or German using a paid learning method.

That the number one motivator was a social factor is an interesting fact, especially considering the ongoing Covid-19 pandemic. Studies report on the effects of health measures such as quarantine and social distancing, to which people reacted with increased smartphone use, fear of missing out, as well as feelings of disconnection, loneliness and isolation.

Socially motivated language learning, especially to learn about new cultures, could be a coping mechanism, provide a welcome distraction and social interaction at least in the form of online classes or take place in preparation for travelling once possible again. However, since Lingoda didn’t ask survey participants to put their answers in relation to the health crisis, this remains speculative.

Tips for helping children learn a second language

From an early age on, children can absorb a second language much more easily than adults. Studies show that science and parents agree on the benefits of raising a child at least bi-lingual, such as an improvement in cognitive abilities and problem-solving skills. Lingoda provides parents with a few practical tips on how to help kids with language learning.

Language learning for children at home

You can create a powerful language learning experience at home, because children don’t learn in isolation: Research proves they pick up on interactions, social cues and reinforcements around the lesson. Kids are attuned to eye contact, tone of voice or smiles from their parents, all of which helps them pick up a language easier during the daily routine in the home environment. Use the following tips to add to that and read our full article on teaching kids a language at home:

  • Speak to your child in all the languages you know, even when you’re still learning yourself. Continuous exposure fosters interest and introduces bilingualism or multilingualism. If a child senses language learning is important to you, they will want to follow you or even help you.
  • Use everyday situations and objects to practise the language playfully and naturally by talking about activities of daily life and introducing foreign language vocabulary for food, toys or clothes.
  • If you don’t know where to start, look for topics of interest for your child, or begin with numbers, colours, adjectives, animals, food, nature or the human body.
  • Sing songs and tell stories in the foreign language. Music and rhymes help children memorize the words and their meaning. Stories and games will feel like entertainment with a secondary learning effect.
  • You might know from your own language learning that practice is essential, so support your child’s efforts and help them develop a routine that covers repetition, review of lessons comprehension and writing exercises for older kids.

How to find the best language learning resources for kids

Find out the learning type of your child and then look for resources that play to their strength, whether it’s listening, reading, writing or speaking out loud. Kid-friendly resources are usually interactive with a game-like character, foster creativity and offer enough variety to keep children engaged. These are a few suggestions for resources to check out:

  • Online classes offer the advantage of professional teachers over language learning apps, but kids can start their language learning journey with interactive apps on the phone or tablet. Browse Google Play or the App Store for high-quality language apps for kids such as Muzzy or Dino Lingo.
  • Listening and watching programs that cater to your child’s interests allows them to pick up a language while they’re also learning other things. Consider age-appropriate podcasts, Ted talks and videos, for example, from YouTube Kids.

Language immersion means that your child is exposed to a foreign language not only in the classroom, but ideally a lot outside of it as well. The immersive experience fosters the development of concentration and memory and the assimilation of more languages later in life. Here are ideas for language immersion:

  • Native speaker materials such as age-appropriate original language books are great for strengthening language skills so that your child can immerse themselves in their own time. With older kids or advanced learners, you can also watch movies or shows together.
  • Where possible, further immersion can happen with travel, a school study trip or language exchange, studying abroad or with a foreign language caretaker at home. Language is embedded in culture. Learn together with your kid through cultural activities and experiences exploring art, food, people, customs and country!

Methodology

Lingoda surveyed US residents aged 20 years and over who are currently learning English, Spanish, French or German or were learning until recently and had to stop because of Covid-19. All participants were using an online or offline paid language learning method. Lingoda collected quantitative data in an online survey over a period from June 28, 2021 to July 22, 2021. Of the 614 respondents, 263 were learning French, 207 were learning German, 130 Spanish and 14 English.