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The benefits of learning new languages...

This week, two of the Einstein Fellows, Jess Hexsel and Carla Neely, taught us how to code a Micro:bit. Basically a small circuit board with some bells and whistles, the micro:bit is a great way to learn how to code. We wrote code to have it scroll our name and then wrote a more complex code so we could shake it to play rock, paper, scissors.



As I was trying to figure out the code (me in the upper left side of picture), I realized I was trying to learn a language. Computer coding requires the use of a unique language. There are several unique languages in the world of computer science: Java, C++, Python, Cobalt, etc.. If you learn the language, so many doors can open up to you.


Learning to code by communicating in a specific language is very familiar to learning a language like French. I took 4 years of French in high school, and was thrilled when both my boys took four years of a language in high school. But now I realize they were both learning another language as well- music.


Malcolm played violin for 7 years and Ian played cello for a year, piano for 8 years, and has played trombone for 8 years. In addition, both boys did choir for at least 1 year. Ian is a music education major and I have been impressed at all they have to learn to be fluent in the language of music. One part of my professional development is that I am learning to play acoustic guitar. The online course I am using takes time to explain the music notation and theory, a necessary step if I am to be able to read sheet music- which is in it's own unique language.


There have been many studies on the cognitive benefits of learning a language. People who speak more than one language have improved memory, problem-solving and critical-thinking skills, enhanced concentration, ability to multitask, and better listening skills. At this time when there is so much emphasis on student losses in reading and math, the knee jerk reaction would be to cut out other topics that are not tested to catch students up. Take away time for science, technology, art and music and use that time to work solely on reading and math. That would be counterproductive because while learning the language of coding or music, students are gaining the necessary skills that will allow them to more quickly close the learning loss gaps.


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