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Learning Young

Early childhood is the best time for foreign language acquisition. Between birth and adolescence the brain is hard-wired to acquire languages naturally. As a result, children build a second language system alongside, not through, the first language. They absorb the sounds, structures, intonation patterns and rules of a second language naturally, as they did when they learned their mother tongue. Children who learn a language young easily develop a native-like fluency and flawless accent.

Learning a foreign language at a young age, when the acquisition for language is at its peak, can present many benefits and opportunities:

Advanced cognitive skills

Children who learn a second language young show improved overall school performance, superior problem-solving skills, stronger overall communication skills, enhanced spatial relations and heightened creativity. Learning a foreign language also encourages flexible thinking, helping children consider issues from more than one perspective.

Higher test scores

Students of foreign languages score statistically higher on standardized tests conducted in English. A number of reports have demonstrated that children who have learned a second language earn higher SAT scores in English and Mathematics than students who have not.

Increased understanding of their own language

The more children learn about a foreign language the more they understand their own language. Children can learn much about English by learning the structure of other languages. Students can reflect on their own language's sentence structure and compare and contrast. Common vocabulary also helps children learn the meaning of new words in English.

Enhanced self-esteem

Children feel good about having a new skill that most of their peers and sometimes even their parents and closest relatives do not master.

Life-enriching benefits

* References

  • The Cognitive Advantages of Balanced Bilingualism
    by Lisa Chipongian, BrainConnection.com, June 2000.
  • What does research show about the benefits of Language learning?
    American Council on the Teaching of Foreign Languages.
  • How does language learning support academic achievement?
    American Council on the Teaching of Foreign Languages.
  • How does language learning provide cognitive benefits to students?
    American Council on the Teaching of Foreign Languages.
  • How does language learning affect attitudes and beliefs about language learning and about other cultures?
    American Council on the Teaching of Foreign Languages.
  • Being Bilingual Boosts Brain Power
    by Miranda Hitti, WebMD Health News, October 2004.
  • The Effect of Second Language Learning on Test Scores, Intelligence and Achievement, An Annotated Bibliography
    by Elizabeth L. Webb, Program Specialist for Foreign Languages and Internatonal Education, Georgia Department of Education.
  • Personal Benefits of Foreign Language Study
    by H. Harold Weatherford, ERIC Digest, 1986.
  • Cognitive Benefits of Learning Language
    Interview to Martha G. Abbott, Director of Education for the American Council on the Teaching of Foreign Languages (ACTFL), Therese Sullivan Caccavale, president of the National Network for Early Language Learning (NNELL) and Ken Stewart, 2006 ACTFL National Language Teacher of the Year; AP Spanish teacher at Chapel Hill High School in Chapel Hill, North Carolina, Duke Gifted Letter, Volume 8, Issue 1, Fall 2007