Learning a Second Language: More than just a handy skill

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Many adults took some foreign language classes in high school or college, but most did not become fluent or even conversational, and many also then forgot most of what they learned without frequent practice. That model of education leaves a lot to be desired in terms of efficacy. If today’s parents want bilingual or multilingual children to obtain the maximum benefits of those second language skills, the exposure to other languages has to start early.

Studies show that what children learn in the first five years has the deepest and longest lasting impacts on their later development, especially when it comes to speech and language. In fact, hearing the unique sounds that each language has at an early age, whether it be the rolled Spanish R, or the different vowel sounds of Mandarin Chinese, makes it much more likely that children will be able to replicate the sound than if they learn it later in life.

Their little sponge brains take in everything, so it isn’t necessary to drill flashcards in foreign language to toddlers. The best way for them to pick up on a second language is an immersion environment, or, barring that, simply incorporating a second language into their play.

How can that be accomplished? When parents choose a nursery school, preschool, daycare, or day camp, they should consider looking for centers that have multilingual staff, and who incorporate other languages into the play, circle time, songs, and games the children play each day. Counting to ten in Chinese, or singing Spanish nursery rhymes goes a long way in familiarizing even the smallest children with the sounds of other languages. Language acquisition is easier, faster, and with little to no accent when children are exposed to foreign language early in life.

However, learning another language isn’t just a great skill to have, it’s extremely beneficial to brain development. Children are building a foundation that will support their long term education, and when children stretch their brains to include second languages, they’re also preparing their brain for better overall language comprehension well into college and adulthood. Other ways that multilingualism benefits the brain of young children include a quicker grasp of object permanence, increased ability to multi-task, enhanced memory, and improved creativity. Problem solving skills and critical thinking skills are another great side-effect of early second language exposure. Bilingual students typically test higher on SAT’s, both in the math and English portions. Worth a mention are the benefits of multicultural awareness, the societal benefits of being able to communicate with more people, and once a child learns a second language, learning a third and fourth languages come along even more easily.

Parents of young children in Paramus, Oradell, Ridgewood, Edgewater, Fort Lee, Cliffside Park, Hoboken, East Rutherford, Carlstadt and Rutherford New Jersey will want to check out a nearby Prime Time Early Learning Center for their strong support of bilingual learning for children from nursery school to elementary ages. Prime Time now has a full-time Spanish teacher on staff who travels among their four New Jersey centers. Likewise, parents in Middletown, Goshen, Farmingdale and Melville New York will also want to look into Prime Time’s great local early learning centers to check out how Spanish language learning is incorporated into their proprietary Prime Connections early learning curriculum.