We teach our children to count and to read from an early age. Today many parents even conduct explosive kitchen experiments with their pre schoolers as they attempt to give their kids an avantage in the education stakes. Should kids learn a second language as part of their education? The answer is yes and there are a range of persuasive reasons why.
Living in a global community
The rise of technology has seen the way in which we communicate change in ways that would be unimaginable to people fifty years ago. Social media allows people from opposite sides of the globe to communicate in an instant. The global community means that a second language is a major asset when it comes to job prospects. Some fields actively employ people with specific language skills. If you want to give your children a head start in the global employment market then a second language is a must.
There are employment agencies which specialize in jobs which require a bilingual candidate. Careers can take employees across the world. Perhaps a multinational company requires a Dutch speaking person to work in an office in Greece or an Italian speaker to work as a translator in Paris? There are endless opportunities for young people who have a desire to see the world. Closer to home careers in translation and teaching require a thorough knowledge of a second language.
Learning language is one of the most complex things that our brains ever have to do. When exposed to language babies develop the ability to communicate in a short space of time. By the age of three, most children have mastered three to four word sentences and have a vocabulary of over 200 words. Compare this to a one-year-old with a grasp of around twelve words and the staggering rate of assimilation is clear to see. Language acquisition is tricky, just ask a toddler, but does the struggle to communicate make people smarter?
Studies would say that learning a second language does make you more intelligent.
In a study carried out in elementary schools titled 'The Benefits and Implications for Achievement in Reading and Math' Janice Stewart noted that "foreign language study in the early elementary years improves cognitive abilities, positively influences achievement in other disciplines, and results in higher achievement test scores in reading and math."
Another study carried out by the University College of London discovered that in the brains of people learning additional languages their gray matter actually changed. The left inferior parietal cortex was denser than the same area in the brains of people without a second language. This part of the brain is responsible for language and mathematical operations. This further supports the results of Stewart's study linking the acquisition of a second language with success in maths.
What is the best age to begin learning?
The earlier the better.
A long upheld theory by linguists is referred to as the Critical Period Hypothesis or CPH. The idea is that there is a small window of opportunity for a second language to be learned. Some argument exists as to the optimum age. An additional language is best learned before the age of five. According to others, mastery of a second language can occur as long as it is studied prior to puberty. The earlier children learn the more fluent in the language they will become.
For those interested in venturing to Europe then German is the number one language to learn as Germany is Europe's largest economy. Your child will impress employers by having German on their curriculum vitae.
Learning a language with kids
Apps should supplement time spent with a native speaker of the chosen language because immersion in a language is invaluable. Being taught by a native speaker of a language is as close as it gets to living in the country. Native speakers understand the subtleties of their language, the almost imperceptible nuances that can be lost or misinterpreted from a book or app alone. For children, lessons must be fun. The key is to locate a good tutor and support your child as they learn.
How can you help?
The good news is that parents can play an enormous role in helping with the learning of another language. The biggest thing that you can do is learn with them – share the experience. By doing this a child can begin to hold conversations with their immediate family. This boosts confidence and aids retention for everyone involved.
Learning a second language will benefit your child's ability to learn across the board. It could be the clinching factor in them securing their dream job in the future.
The Deutsch Centre is going to offer German Classes for children from September 2017. If you would like to be updated about this, please sign up for our mailing list.