Children and Languages
Some parents still think that learning a second language at an early age would delay the language skills of their children. But science is discovering every day linguistic and cognitive benefits in bilingual children and brain scans reveal a greater density of grey matter in areas of the brain associated with language processing in people who learned a second language under the age of five.
In multicultural or border cities is usual to find children in the park speaking two or three different languages since they are three or four years old. It is because they have parents speaking different languages or they just listen the second language in the street or in the school. Maybe for this children is easy to learn a second language because they live in a multilingual and multicultural environment, but all the children have the same capacities for learning a second language at an early age, not only the children living in a multicultural or border city.
Why is important to learn a second language at an early age? The brains of the children are designed for learning languages from a very young age. And some of the benefits of learning a second language at an early age are:
- Children become more creative
- Higher self esteem
- Easy to learn other languages
- Academic benefits
- They learn the language effortlessly
- They are more tolerant and open to other cultures and ideas
- Denser gray matter in the brain. This extra brain power has been shown to give these children an advantage later in life in such areas as logic and math.
- Career benefits
- Increase in possibility of finding work when they are adults
But to maximize these benefits, a child must start as an infant. Research shows that children begin to build their language skills from birth, using the sounds of the speech they are exposed to. They can actually differentiate between different languages long before they can vocalize them themselves, and there seems to be no limit to the number of languages a young child can acquire. When you are young, you acquire language rather than having to learn it.
Each day more parents in Europe know about all these benefits and they want to help their children to be bilingual. That is why a group of European partners with experience in early childhood education and bilingualism are developing the project “POLYGLOT: Multilingual Education in Preschool Age” with the support of the European Commission and the Erasmus+ programme. These European partners from Austria, Cyprus, Italy, Bulgaria, Turkey and Spain are elaborating a guide with open educational resources, best practices, tips,… for parents and teachers interested in multilingual education. So they will be able to help the children at home and in the school to acquire a second language at an early age.
Juan Ruiz Subirán