by Meritxell Franco at Buenos Dias

A very common question amongst parents is “What is the ideal age for my child to start learning a second language? The answer is easy…the earlier the better!!

Several articles in science and research magazines have described the amazing brain power that children are naturally born with. You have probably seen television programmes describing how brain cells work. They show the way children experience life (by seeing, listening, touching, smelling… sensorial) can make 100 billion brain cells hook up with each other!! (not bad for such little ones…)

The more sensory input (such as the unique sounds of a language), the more brain cells connect to each other and the faster the brain is capable of learning.

There is scientific evidence that children who are exposed to a second language from an early age not only achieve much better results in languages, but also in maths, science and music, and in general helps build brain power and cognitive skills.

Any toddler can easily learn that “cow” and “vaca” have the same meaning, and that one is English and the other Spanish. But that understanding will trigger the essential abstract thinking skills that are the basic tools for further learning.

The American Academy of Pediatrics stated that “there is abundant evidence that the best time to learn new languages is relatively early in life.”

Mr Harry Chugani of Wayne State University’s Children’s Hospital of Michigan quotes “the optimum window of opportunity for learning languages lasts until about the age of ten or twelve, yet most US districts wait until secondary school, after the windows are closed.” In the UK – and in many other countries – the teaching of a second language has also been delayed until secondary school. This is now proven to be detrimental as learning a language becomes increasingly difficult.

A young child is able to hear the “pure sounds” of a language, but just before becoming a teen, that ability will be gone. He or she might still be able to learn a second language but will definitely have an English accent (that’s if he/she is English, of course…!!)

Here are some quotes from different field experts, to illustrate the facts:

“Research suggests that learning a second language at an early age can enrich mental development.” (Business Week, Edward Baig, Bringing Up Baby – Bilingually.)

“… children who receive even small amounts of second-language instruction are more creative and are better at solving complex problems.”(SmartKid online)

“The learning of languages other than one’s own provides a unique conduit to higher-order thinking skills.”(Annals of the American Academy of Political & Social Science, C.Brown.)

“A study of 13,200 primary school children was revealing. Regardless of race, gender or academic level, children taking a foreign language did better in the English section of the Basic Skills Test. Maths scores of children studying a second language improve, too.” (Child, Lynne S.Dumas, Learning a second language.)

It is very satisfying to see little children naming animals and daily objects, or counting and singing in Spanish, knowing that this will help them in their studies for the rest of their lives.

The benefits of learning a second language are countless; just make sure that your child has fun whilst learning!

For more information please telephone
Meritxell on 01273 323431
or visit www.buenosdias.co.uk

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