Children Learning Foreign Languages Benefit In Surprising Ways!

Children who study one (or more!) foreign languages starting as young as birth gain skills in areas well beyond saying “oui” when asked a question in French or counting “uno-dos-tres” before their classmates learn those same words in school. Young children learn all languages naturally and easily, the way they learn their first language! They have the potential to be fluent in the most important areas of language: accent, grammar, syntax, and also tone for such tonal languages. (They can always increase their vocabulary in school or through college, by studying-abroad, reading in the foreign language, etc.)

Surprisingly, aside from learning a foreign language so well, multi-lingual children have other advantages in life. They have an easier time learning other languages later on. Plus they develop greater communication ability in their first language.  Their self-confidence goes up as well, because they achieve higher grades in all subjects and higher overall standardized test scores than children who speak only one language.  This wide array of benefits from learning more than one language as a young child occur because the brain has gotten extra “exercise” in areas rarely used in a single-language situation. It’s like going to the gym and doing not only the treadmill you do every day, but also now adding the elliptical and bike. Your muscles get stronger in different ways – plus your treadmill running gets easier, and you can pick up new exercises more easily than before. Now imagine doing all that when you were at your peak age!

An important warning is that, around age 10-12, the brain seals off the synapses and neurons that weren’t used consistently those first years. After age 12, it is therefore difficult to absorb language naturally, and we must resort to rote memorization and flashcards – while finding it difficult to wrap our tongue around the foreign sounds. Giving your child as much foreign-language exposure before age 10 is the best way to try to guarantee that those many benefits will occur later. Your preschooler or elementary school child will love to show off new French skills and sing you their favorite Mandarin songs. And “parent and me” toddler classes are a great way to bond with your child while brushing up on your college Spanish!

~Wonders – Children Learning Language, Encinitas & Carmel Valley,

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