NEW YORK (FOX5NY.COM) - Students at the International Academy of New York are learning Mandarin. In the room next door, Spanish is on the syllabus.
"It's one of the greatest gifts you can give children in the 21st Century," said Shelley Borror Jackson, the head of the school. "Our students spend roughly 40 percent of their week functioning in either Mandarin or Spanish."
The benefits of bilingualism are many. Studies show children who are bilingual are much more focused and less distracted. They are more able to switch tasks spontaneously.
"they have more flexible and nimble brains," Borror Jackson said. "By middle school, bilingual kids typically outperform their peers in both math and verbal standardized tests just because, I think, of brain development."
even though there are so many benefits to being proficient in two languages, raising a bilingual child is not all that easy.
Edward Remache's son attends the International Academy of New York. even though his wife and parents speak Spanish, his son would only speak to them in English. But Remache said that changed once he started school.
Human interaction is key.
"Research has really shown that video or screen time never takes the place of human contact when learning another language," Borror Jackson said. "So that is an important point."
Because learning a language requires massive exposure to that language, parents should immerse the child in the second language as much as possible, experts say.
Borror Jackson said that means singing and reading in that language and taking your children to cultural events where they hear others using the language.