Starting Second Language Learning

Is it too early for my child to start a second language?

Itis never too early for a child to begin a new language. Children areable to learn languages naturally within a “window of opportunity”from birth to adolescence. Studies have shown that infants under 1year old can distinguish sounds in different languages.

Whylearn a second language so young?

Children’s brains have aunique ability to absorb a second language naturally throughconsistent exposure and enjoyable activities. As a child grows,his/her ability to flawlessly imitate new accents and sentencepatterns diminishes significantly.

Children wholearn a foreign language young absorb the language and use itspontaneously without translating through their native tongue. Achild’s learning process fundamentally differs from how adolescentsor adults learn language. Children learn quickly and effectively,similarly to how they pick up their first language, avoiding the painof learning through grammar, memorization and verb conjugation.

Older learnerslose the ability to hear and reproduce new sounds by age 8-12,according to experts, resulting in a permanent foreign-soundingaccent in any language. Younger learners can still hear criticaldifferences between the sounds of a second language, as well asreproduce them with native-like quality.

Willlearning a second language confuse my child?

While someparents worry that starting their toddler on a second language willinterfere with developing English skills, the opposite is actuallytrue. Children can differentiate between two languages within thefirst weeks of life. Learninganother language actually enhances a child’s overall verbaldevelopment, says Roberta MichnickGolinkoff, Ph.D, author of How Babies Talk.

In fact,research shows that children can learn a second and even a thirdlanguage as easily as they learn their first, and learning additionallanguages enhances their skills in all languages.

Are thereadditional benefits to learning a second language?

Children whostudy foreign language show highercognitive performance in overall basic skills in elementary school.According to the College Entrance Examination Board, they go onto score higher on SATs.They also exhibit better problemsolving skills, enhanced spatialrelations, and heightened creativity.Learning a second language early on encourages flexiblethinking and communication skills,helping children consider issues from more than one perspective.

Look ahead 20years or so…imagine the social and career opportunities that willbe available to your child if he can speak two or three languages!

LanguageStars FunImmersion® programs include Parents & Tots classes forages 1 to 3, and Kids Only classes for ages 3-5, 5-8, and 8-10. Wealso offer summer programs and day camps. Please visitwww.languagestars.com, or call 866-55-STARS, for more information onour foreign language programs in Spanish, French, Italian, German andMandarin Chinese at our Alexandria, Bethesda or Reston locations.

 

Fun Links

Go on safari inthis interactive French or Spanish game forkids.

 

Morebenefits of languagelearning!

 

Informationfrom the University of North Carolina School ofEducation

 

Edutopia(The George Lucas EducationalFoundation)

 

About WF Staff

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