Learning a second language is worth more than an extra qualification on a resume. In this changing global landscape, it’s more important than ever to begin teaching your child a second language. Considering almost 22% of the nation’s population speaks a language other than English at home, it’s vital to diversify your child’s language learning.
The older we get, the harder it is to pick up a language. Waiting until a child is in elementary or middle school to start learning wastes precious years that may make the difference between being able to hold a casual conversation in a language and total fluency.
Let’s learn more about the benefits of early language learning and discover how children learn language so easily.
How do children learn language?
You’ve likely heard the phrase “children are like sponges,” meaning they soak up every bit of information around them. When it comes to language learning, this couldn’t be any more true. Children are alarmingly fast to catch onto complex ideas like verb tense and syntax without any formal education in the language. How do they accomplish this?
Language learning is a rapid process that actually begins in utero. From seven months on, babies can hear their mother talking from inside the womb. Some studies have found that, after four and a half months, infants are able to recognize the sound pattern and syllables of their own name. Not only do they recognize it, they can differentiate it from other noises. Six to eight months after birth, children are often babbling words like “mama” or “dada”, getting used to repetitive, easy noises.
Children as young as preschool age can begin to learn a foreign language. At this age, their natural ability to learn language has not waned, and their enthusiasm to learn makes it easy to catch onto new concepts. Using play as a way of learning has been shown to be incredibly effective, providing frequent exposure to the language in a way that excites the student. As little as one hour a day of play could have a huge impact on learning a second language.
What are the benefits of foreign language learning?
Multiple research studies confirm what we know to be true: learning a foreign language has a number of benefits to students of all ages.
Bilingualism has been associated with:
- Improved test scores
- Increased reading ability
- Higher SAT and ACT scores
- Improved grammatical judgment and word recognition
- Development of a more positive attitude toward speakers of that language
While there have been ideas in the past that learning a second language takes away from first language acquisition, this has been disproven. Rather, the cognitive abilities gained while learning a second language can actually help to improve your child’s first language skills. Your only concern may be keeping up with them!
At Little Sunshine’s Playhouse, we offer a number of additional activities to help our students grow, including foreign language.