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?
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:
Development of Strong Problem Solving Skills
Much like putting together a puzzle or solving a riddle, a child who speaks
multiple languages begins to discern when it’s appropriate to use certain languages. In addition, their brains begin to think of two possible interpretations of a situation or stimulus at one time, as is necessary when deciding where and when to speak a certain language. This can translate to a speedier development of problem solving skills compared to monolingual children.
Expanded Vocabulary and Grammar Usage
While bilingual children split their learning and practicing time between two languages, and thus end up spending less time on both, studies have shown that they are on par with or ahead of their monolingual peers in terms of vocabulary and grammatical development. What’s more, bilingual children learn how to choose their words carefully to ensure purpose and proper meaning behind each word.
Another common myth about bilingual learning for children involves focus and attention issues. But according to studies at the Cornell Language Acquisition Lab, children who are learning a second language are actually more adept at blocking outside distractions and stimuli than monolingual children. The ability to segment distractions apart from the task at hand is an incredibly important skill for all children to learn, and for bilingual children, can contribute to their academic success.
Implementing Bilingual Education 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 and spend 30 to 60 minutes per day in every classroom, 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.
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.