Learning a New Language: The Earlier the Better
June 5, 2019 – AWE Learning Staff
Many say that we are lifelong learners; however, research shows that there are optimal times to learn a second language. Studies illustrate that learning a second language is easier to acquire at a younger age than as an adult. Learning a second language as a child is less complex because the language center of the brain is still developing. Children are like sponges; their brains are designed to take in new information unconsciously.
Think about the daily schedule of a child. This often includes naptime, playtime, storytime, etc. Now think about the daily routine of an adult at work; this often includes the use of applying many learned skills and acquired knowledge. Overall, children have less to learn than adults. As a result, children learning a second language are not overwhelmed by trying to abstractly communicate in this new language, rather they speak in simple sentences. When learning a new language at a young age, children will grow up and develop the skills to express themselves more abstractly in both their native language and the second language.
Bilingual children are more likely to display empathy toward others and are more aware of cultures and experiences outside of their own. It has been found that learning a second language boosts children’s cognitive development which has a positive impact on overall academic progress. Learning a second language has benefits for early learners in the classroom, but also greatly impacts their future careers. Bilingual children learn faster and easier, have improved problem-solving skills, and are shown to have more career opportunities in their adulthood. Having the ability to speak more than one language opens the doors to do business in a global world. Give your early learners the opportunity to learn a second language while their minds are still developing; this will give them an advantage when entering the workforce.
As an adult have you gotten the urge to learn a new language but realized that you lack the time to do so? Children have more time on their hands to slowly learn and build their vocabulary and grammatical skills. While it may be easier to learn a second language as a child, our learning never stops. In fact, learning a new language later in life, as an adult or a senior, has shown to slow the aging process and improve cognitive abilities.
Below are some tips on teaching a second language to your early learner:
- Introduce the language early: Research shows that learning a second language is easier to acquire beginning at a young age.
- Start with the basics: Begin with learning simple vocabulary – colors, shapes, etc. Listen to music in the second language to get your early learner hearing words and phrases in the second language.
- Take advantage of resources available to you: Go to your local public library and take advantage of the digital resources they have or read some books in the second language.
- Build a home library: Give children books at home in the second language. By seeing these words, it will help them to practice and build their vocabulary.
- Do fun activities using the language: Label items in your home with the words in the second language. When children are asking for the items, require them to use the language they are learning. Practice will help build familiarity and comfortability.