I was working at my boutique a couple months ago and had an amazing conversation with one of my clients, Nicole McNeil, PhD. She shared some information on the benefits of acquiring a second language early and I couldn’t wait to pass it on to all of you. I am sure there are many of you out there that have had the same experiences as me with foreign languages. I hope you find it as informative as I did.
Nicole McNeil, PhD.
Learning a second language gets more difficult the older we get. Many adults, who have taken years of a foreign language, may feel they can read and write the second language better than speak it orally. This is not a result of simply language acquisition but also the flexibility of the brain. As identified by research in Early Childhood Education, 90% of the brain is developed before the age of five. So when it comes to learning a second language, as parents, we must consider the age of our young ones.
Earlier is Better. 90% of the brain is developed by the age of five and when a child is exposed to a language at an early age, the child can access more parts of their brain than a monolingual child. Learning a foreign language before the age of five in an interactive environment with a fluent language speaker allows for the language to develop naturally. It is stored in the same part of the brain as the first language but after the age of five, it becomes more difficult to learn the language because it is stored in a different part of the brain. There still are benefits to learning another language after the age of five because the “window for opportunity” to sound like a native speaker of the language remains until puberty or the ages 12 to 13.
Naturally. The second language is acquired the same way children acquire their first language through meaningful interactions with the environment and other people. When children learn cognitive, emotional and literacy skills in a foreign language, the skills transfer into English. Just like we as adults do not have to learn math skills in a foreign language, the skills we learned in English will transfer as we acquire the thematical term in the second language.
Smarter. Numerous studies have shown that children who are bilingual at a young age have more cognitive abilities than monolingual children. Bilingual children have demonstrated more flexibility in thinking that leads to the ability to solve more complex problems, have better listening skills and can quickly switch attention between tasks. As a child transitions into higher levels of education, there is a strong relationship between bilingualism and higher test scores. Later in life, recent studies on the elderly have found that bilingual brains are less likely to develop dementia.
To get the most advantage of developing second language skills and boosting a child’s brain power, parents should consider a few attributes of the programs. What language to choose? Languages that allow student to practice and interact more often like Spanish in Arizona. How much time are children exposed to the second language? More is better. What quality of experience are children having in the program, immersion versus direct instruction? Immersion ensures the language experiences connect to the student’s interest. For more information on the benefits of acquiring a second language, please contact Nicole Teyechea McNeil, PhD at the Early Language Learning and Arts Studio (http://earlyllastudio.com/about-ella.html) by email [email protected].
This post is sponsored by:
The Brett Saks Foundation, a 501(c)(3) nonprofit, hopes to make our Arizona communities safer for bicyclists by teaching adults and children about road safety and mutual respect between drivers and cyclists in fun and engaging ways. We are “Shifting Gears to Saves Lives,” as more than 600 cyclists are lost each year to car-bike accidents. Learn more at gearupaz.org.