Benefits From the Inside Out: Language Learning at TYO

Often times, when considering the benefits of learning a new language, we have a tendency to automatically associate its benefits with the impact it can have on one’s professional life, or ability to communicate within day to day interactions with others in a given country, city, town or village. While there is certainly no questioning the positive impacts a new language can have on one’s employability or professional development, social and interpersonal benefits that can come along with the learning process itself can potentially be overlooked. In recent years, it has become increasingly clear that the link between early cognitive and social development in children is not only visible, but is also essential to the healthy development of infants and children. This is perhaps best illustrated in a study done by Shannon Prude, Kathy Hirsh-Pasek, and Roberta Golinkoff of both Temple University and the University of Delaware. Their findings aim at showcasing the unavoidable link between cognitive and social development, even in the most simple of interactions between a parent and their young child. As an example, if a parent was to keep repeating the phrase “I love your smile” to their child, the logical assumption or result would be for the child to understand the word smile in a cognitive sense, while also associating it with a positive social interaction towards another human being.  

Students of a Step! II smile as they prepare for their English class.

This link between cognitive and social development is on display every day at TYO, within the context of our English language program for young children in the Core Children’s Program, as well as the STEP! II English as a Foreign Language Program for young adults, and the English classes offered to Nabulsi women in the Women’s Program at the centre. In different ways, all participants are challenged not only to learn the fundamental cognitive aspects of a new language, but to increase their social capacities while doing so. The hands on teaching methods used in the language programs at TYO familiarizes our core demographics with new ways to interact with one another and become more confident in themselves, and in turn, to empower others in their own communities to do the same.

Over the past month and a half, I have had the privilege of witnessing this effect first-hand though teaching an English class for young adults. Coming to English class at TYO has been embraced by the students as a fun and positive way to not only learn a language, but increase their capabilities to interact with others and develop their own social skills in another language.   Ideally, one would hope that the perception of language as a solely cognitive skill will morph into one that encompasses the interpersonal development and impact it can truly have.  

The English as a Foreign Language (EFL) program is part of STEP! II, a youth employability, empowerment, and community leadership initiative supported by Abdul Hameed Shoman Foundation.


Moh, EFL Fellow, Spring 2016