• 19 June 2024
Learning a Second Language Early

Learning a Second Language Early

Jul 10, 2018

Learning a second language carries many benefits – from a lifelong love of learning about other cultures to wiring the brain for necessary critical thinking and memory skills.

Study after study have shown that learning another language has plenty of benefits for learners, from enhancing problem-solving and critical thinking skills, to improving how we listen, comprehend, and remember.

It’s likewise true that younger language learners have an easier time adopting another language. In fact, children who learn a second language before the age of 5 use the same part of their brain that they use with their mother tongue.

Bilingual children, on average, demonstrate better results for reading, writing, and math and score higher on standardized tests. What’s more, learning another language exposes children to other cultures – and provides an opportunity to immerse them in how others see and interact with the world.

Students Learn Best by Immersion

A series of studies conducted by Cornell's Language Acquisition Lab in 2009 found that the most effective learning environment for young learners is to surround them by the language: what we call “language immersion.” The earlier that children are immersed in the foreign language, the more likely they are to attain “native-like language proficiency” and exhibit enhanced cognitive functions later in life, at school and beyond.

How Can I Encourage My Language Learner?

Children are like sponges; they’ll soak up learning when their environment is optimized to encourage learning.

To build an immersive environment, engage in a range of learning activities, much like working with children in their parent language. The key is that activities should be fun and engrossing – and the possibilities for crafting new lessons are endless.

Explore the new language through fun games and activities, and by reading books and other material in the other language. When children ask questions, respond in the other language. This encourages students to think through ideas and challenges in the new language as well.

Consider a Language Specialist

If you don’t speak another language fluently, there are a number of ways to engage with your child. Try language learning tapes appropriate for your child’s age and ability level. To help you determine this, parents can work with a tutor specialized in the new language, who can also work directly with your child to encourage learning and retention.

Learning another language is more than just useful: it’s a window into new vistas of life and opportunities. Your child can enhance their thinking and learning skills, become familiar with other cultures, and build a solid foundation for acquiring future languages (including other forms of “language” like music and computer coding).

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