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The Advantages of Bilingual Education for Children's Development

Everyone has heard this before – learning a second language is significantly easier for a child at a younger age. But what is the science behind this?

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Children are linguistic geniuses and are situated in the window of opportunity for language learning. All children have the capacity to learn any language and reproduce the sounds necessary to execute them at a near-native level. The younger the child, the easier it is for a child to learn the phonetic sounds of multiple languages before their brain becomes too accustomed to the sounds of just one.

Like learning their first language, children experiment with sounds and pay attention to the way adults around them speak and react to the eventual words and sentences they start to form. Simply, learning a first language happens through immersion and second language acquisition should be no different!

Some people may worry about confusion, language delay, or cognitive deficit due to learning another language simultaneously or sequentially, but these are common myths.

Mixing two or more languages in speech—what researchers call code-mixing or code-switching—is less of a deficiency in one language as it is an example of linguistic sophistication, requiring a lot of linguistic knowledge in both languages. In fact, researchers of early bilingualism in children found that bilingual learners consistently reach the same developmental milestones in language as their monolingual peers.

Developmental & Cognitive Benefits of Bilingualism

Let’s take a look at some of the important milestones bilingual children can benefit from:

How does bilingualism impact cognitive development in children?

Bilingualism in children offers a multitude of developmental advantages, as highlighted above. Let’s delve into the significant milestones that bilingual children can achieve. Much like solving a puzzle, bilingual children develop strong problem-solving skills by discerning when to use each language appropriately. This ability to think in multiple languages simultaneously aids in quicker problem-solving compared to monolingual children. Additionally, bilingual children excel in vocabulary and grammar usage, despite splitting their time between languages.

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Studies have shown that they are at par with or even ahead of their monolingual peers in these areas. Moreover, bilingual children learn the art of selecting words carefully to convey precise meanings. Contrary to common misconceptions, bilingual children exhibit focused attention and are skilled at blocking distractions. Studies conducted at the Cornell Language Acquisition Lab have demonstrated that bilingual children excel in segmenting distractions from their tasks, a crucial skill contributing to their academic success. These findings underscore the myriad cognitive benefits that bilingualism can offer to children in their developmental journey.

How does bilingualism relate to cognitive diseases like Alzheimer's and Dementia?

Bilingualism has been linked to potential benefits in reducing the risk of cognitive diseases such as Alzheimer's and Dementia. Studies have shown that bilingual individuals tend to have better cognitive functioning and may experience a delay in the onset of Alzheimer's disease compared to monolingual individuals. Research suggests that bilingualism can help in maintaining healthier brain function and may slow down cognitive decline associated with aging. This association highlights the potential protective effects of bilingualism on brain health and its impact on cognitive diseases like Alzheimer's and Dementia. Never too early to start and win the battle against this terrible condition!

How does bilingualism contribute to long-term success?

As we’ve pointed out, children who are learning a second language exhibit a remarkable ability to block out external distractions, a skill that is essential for academic achievement. However, it is vital to recognize the broader context in which bilingualism operates. In today's increasingly globalized world, where a significant majority of adults speak more than one language, being monolingual can potentially limit the opportunities available to individuals. By embracing bilingualism, children not only hone their cognitive abilities but also position themselves to thrive in a diverse and competitive landscape as they progress into adulthood.

The Advantages of Bilingual Education and How to Implement for Your Child

It’s clear that there are many benefits of bilingualism in early childhood, but how can you implement this in your child’s overall education? For one, it’s important to begin exposing children to multiple languages early on. Children as young as two years old recognize the language of the community, and can therefore begin to recognize multiple languages as they are spoken.

Additionally, consistently practicing the second language at home with your child is imperative. If you are a native speaker of another language besides English, it will be easier to ensure daily practice of the second language with your little one. However, for non-native speakers of another language, this task will be more difficult.

A solution is to ensure that your child receives bilingual instruction from native speakers—along with adequate time to learn and speak the second language—while at school. Ideally, you’ll want to find daycare and preschool programs that offer bilingual education programs for children so you can start your young one on their journey to multilingualism early.

Consistency is key when it comes to young children learning a second language, so having the tools and the support system in place is essential for the best results.

Cresthill Academy Offers Bilingual Education

At Cresthill Academy, we recognized the numerous benefits of bilingualism in early childhood development and proudly offer early foreign language learning in Spanish and Mandarin Chinese at our daycare and preschool locations in New Jersey. Our foreign language teachers are native speakers of the languages they teach. Depending on location, our bilingual teachers spend 30 to 90 minutes per day in every classroom in a live-human delivery model (versus some schools that rely on video). This live-human delivery model allows for language and interactive rich learning while ensuring the consistency that is needed for true language comprehension and absorption. In addition, we use multiple mediums when teaching languages, including music, digital interactive methods, cultural projects, and more.

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To learn more about Cresthill Academy and how we’re dedicated to providing excellent language learning opportunities to all of our enrolled children, contact us today and schedule a tour. We offer a variety of day care programs for infants, toddlers, preschoolers, and kindergarteners with locations in Harrison, Hoboken Uptown, Hoboken Downtown, East Hanover, and Lyndhurst, New Jersey.

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