Have you ever thought about teaching your child a foreign language? Now — when your child is still young — is the best time to start.
Why start early?
Experts in the field of foreign language education state that learning a new language at an early age enhances children’s ability to understand and gives them cognitive developmental advantages over children who only learn one language. It can increase their critical thinking skills, creativity and communication skills. Learning the language while they are young helps them retain the knowledge into adulthood, while those who learn a language as they are older might have more trouble remembering.
Studies do show that it is more difficult to learn a new language as people age. Also, the sooner your child starts, the longer he or she has to learn and improve!
How can it benefit your child in the long run?
Second languages give students an edge when applying for college and adults a competitive advantage in the work force. Knowing another language also helps build a more diverse population and enhances one’s knowledge of other cultures and of their own.
“By learning a second language, people never think about their own language in the same way again,” said Dr. Miranda E. Wilkerson, assistant professor and coordinator of English for Speakers of Other Languages at Columbia College. “The cultural knowledge and understanding that comes with learning a second language provides people with a chance to see the world through multiple lenses.”
How can I get started?
For a young child, it’s important to make sure they hear the language on a daily basis so they are constantly immersed. They learn how to speak English before going to school because they hear you and others talking! Try to use that same concept in helping them learn a new language.
Just because you might not be fluent in a language doesn’t mean you can’t help your child! Here are a few tips to start:
- Watch movies and television shows in the language. Many are available in various languages through stores, online and on streaming providers such as Netflix.
- Audio books are another great option for your child to hear sentences completely in another language. Realize, though, they are going to need to listen to that book much more than one time – keep replaying it!
- More than just listening, your child needs to be attempting to speak the language as well and trying to associate words with meaning. Flash cards will help you engage with your child while they learn. You can pronounce the word aloud while showing an image and have them repeat it back.
- If you can, hire a babysitter who speaks the language your child is trying to learn. This provides the child a chance to hear someone speaking fluently, and it also provides the child the opportunity to do some speaking, too! Ask the babysitter to speak only in his or her language.
- If it’s an option, get involved outside the home through a language immersion school or through courses. Remember that if you enroll them in classes that only meet twice a week or so, you still need to be working with them at home so they encounter the language daily.