Learning multiple languages in children
Taking advantage of childhood to encourage children to learn additional languages has many benefits. As our world grows smaller and smaller, children who are fluent in more than one language may encounter far fewer communication barriers. Learning a second and third foreign language may also improve a child’s understanding of their native language.
In addition to enhancing problem solving skills and creativity, many psychologists also feel that learning additional languages early in life may assist in “sharper thinking” and greater critical thinking skills.
Bilingual children consistently perform higher on standardized testing such as the SAT. Scientists have also discovered that learning multiple languages physically changes the brain.
Areas in the left side of the brain, which are affected greatly by language, appear to be denser in individuals who speak more than one language.
One report shows that the increase in density appears to be directly affected by the age at which individuals begin learning a second language. Those who began learning at earlier ages showed the greatest increase in density.
Don’t worry if you only speak one language. There are many ways to assist your child in taking advantage of the window of opportunity that is childhood. If there are bilingual parents or care providers active in the child’s life, have those individuals speak to the child in their language if not exclusively, as much as possible.
Additionally, multimedia programs designed for the way that children absorb language in context are also useful tools in introducing children to a second language.
Whatever method you choose to introduce a new language, focusing on keeping language learning fun is the best way to continue that lifelong love of learning that all parents wish for their children.