In honor of the International Children’s Day (yesterday, 1 June), today’s post will be dedicated to children and foreign language learning.
Whether or not foreign languages should be studied is not something that should even be discussed. In today’s globalized world, speaking a foreign language is so much more than just a nice addition to your CV, and/ or an advantage when looking for a job – it’s a daily necessity for everyone, everywhere.
Which is why it is only natural that from a very early stage most parents today are faced with the questions of when, where and how a child’s first foreign language learning should begin – the most important of these being “when”.
While we all know you can learn a foreign language at any age, it’s a proven fact that children learn foreign languages much faster than adults – or as education experts say – “the younger, the better”. Moreover, experts also agree that the earlier a child is introduced to a foreign language, the greater the chances are that the child will become truly proficient in the language.
Scientific research has shown babies begin picking up elements of what is going to be their first language in the womb – when the unborn baby’s hearing is being developed, he/she subconsciously memorizes the rhythm and melody of the language, called “mother tongue” not without reason. This process continues rapidly over the next 3-4 years, when the natural flexibility and ease of language structures memory is complemented by speech development and accent. This developmental process wraps up at around 5-6 years of age, after which in most cases it becomes more difficult to pronounce phonemas/sounds/ that are not present in the mother tongue – and the capacity to learn a foreign language accent-free decreases thereof. Which is one of the reasons experts agree foreign language learning should start as early as preschool age.
Studies have shown repeatedly that foreign language learning enhances cognitive development, increases critical thinking skills, creativity, and flexibility of mind in young children.
To sum up, the advantages and benefits of learning a foreign language at an early age are extremely valuable and continue long into adulthood – making it an uniquely rewarding experience for our children.