Remember high school? In Catholic school you had to choose either Latin or Spanish. I thought, “What in the world could I do with Latin?” I was fortunate to take both and of course now in retrospect Spanish turned out to be very useful.
Today, enlightened school systems know better. Second languages are introduced in elementary school. Little kids do learn more easily than high school students.
But current research says to really do it right, start even earlier. Start when the child is learning a first language when kids have an astonishing ability to absorb. And in today’s complex world, a second language is not a luxury, it’s a necessity.
We know now that studying a second language offers surprising benefits to children. There appear to demonstrate an improved ability to communicate, have better cognitive development, richer cultural awareness and, ultimately let’s face it, better job opportunities for those who know a second language.
Research suggests that from birth through age 10 is the best time to introduce new languages to a young child. The child will learn the language faster, retain it better and most often speak it with near-native pronunciation. Recent research indicates a young child up through age 5 can learn and process up to five languages!
Many parents deliberate over how to bring a new language into their little one’s life. Many experts agree the bilingual approach for the very young child is best. Teach the new language alongside the native language. It’s as easy as pointing to a cat and saying “cat” then following with “gato.”
This bilingual method provides continuing education in the child’s native tongue while acquiring skills in the new one. Language experts agree the strong sense of pride, higher self-esteem and long term retention are all reasons to introduce the new language with this bilingual/dual-language approach.
Both Time and Newsweek ran feature articles on the “window of opportunity” to learn a new language is between birth and age 10. The experts agree, the earlier the better. Don’t miss out on the prime time of your child’s development to provide your child with a lifetime of language skills. Remember to start early!