One of the most important things you can do for your child educationally is to encourage them to learn a language. The synapses in the brain that work for language acquisition are formed by the age of five or six, which is actually one of the reasons shows like Sesame Street present clips (and follow-up activities on their website) in both English and Spanish. Children learn a second language best at a young age, but sadly, most school districts don’t begin language instruction until middle or high school. Of course, it is never too late to learn a language, however, your child’s chances of being fluent in more than one language are greatly increased if they begin learning early.
There are plenty of software programs available, as well as websites, videos, and other methods that you and your child can do together. Immersion programs and exchange programs can be great for older kids, as long as you’re comfortable with allowing your 12 – 17 year old to live with another family in a foreign country for anywhere from a week to a year. My family always hosted exchange students, which is an excellent way to learn about another culture, but my parents we not comfortable with me leaving the country own my own. I think they thought I’d never want to come back.
If your school does not have a language program, I strongly suggest that you join the PTA (if you’re not already a member) and begin a campaign to bring language and culture into the classroom. Students (and adults) who only speak one language are less likely to travel, more likely to be isolationism, and have less of an understanding of the world and its people. Acquiring a second or third language can only be a good thing, for both you and you child.