How to Continue Your Child’s Bilingual Learning at Home

How to Continue Your Child’s Bilingual Learning at Home

When it comes to language learning, many parents often wonder how they can help their children become more proficient in their comprehension. In many cases, students will often struggle to pick up new language cues and improve fluidity of bilingualism if their studies don’t extend beyond the classroom. In fact, in order to obtain true bilingual capabilities, children require an immense amount of exposure to the languages – exposure that extends well beyond the classroom. So how can you help your child continue bilingual learning at home?

Bilingual Learning at Home

It’s well-known that pediatricians and early education professionals have long supported the relationship between reading and communication with language skills in young children. Parents are encouraged to both read to their children and interact with them directly as much as possible in order to expand their child’s language understanding. The same is true for learning a second language.

The key to expanding a child’s understanding of bilingualism is exposure – lots of exposure – to both the native and second language. Since language learning does not stop once your child leaves their classroom, parents should be continuing the learning at home by incorporating the second language as frequently as possible in the home life. This can be done by reading books, playing games, following recipes native to that language, or even just simply in regular conversations with their children.

Hands-on Learning, Not Screen-Time Learning

It’s important to understand there is a major distinction between direct bilingual exposure at home and that picked up by screen time. While certain online activities can help boost a child’s basic understanding of language, true fluidity is only possible by frequent submersion in the language itself. In other words, talk with your children in meaningful, bilingual conversations, or read to them directly to give them the most proficient means of immersion.  

“In order to foster language development, the exposure has to be person-to-person; screen-time doesn’t count for learning language in young children – even one language – though kids can learn content and vocabulary from educational screen-time later on,” explains the NY Times in report of pediatrician recommendations on bilingual language learning at home.

Plenty of Language Exposure and Patience

With language learning, the best thing parents can do for their child’s learning process is to continue the language education at home by increasing their child’s exposure to the linguistics. There are virtually unlimited ways in which parents can do this, as mentioned above, but also, home submersion isn’t the only aspect to keep in mind when helping children grasp bilingualism.

No matter the age, bilingual individuals will always have a tendency to combine, or mix-up, their languages from time to time and children are no exception. Parents need to keep in mind that their child will need plenty of patience during the bilingual learning process, as well as the ability to not get discouraged when languages get mixed. This is normal and all a part of the learning process. In fact, experts say that language “mix-ups” are actually a sign of a deeper understanding of bilingualism and considered a sign that individuals are truly grasping the second language when this happens.

Above all, parents who want to help their child expand their bilingual learning at home need to take an active role in helping them do so. Frequent and fluent language interactions in both languages will help continue the submersion outside of the classroom while patience and encouragement during the learning process will help them gain the confidence they need to continue their learning even further.

Bilingual Learning Experiences for the Holidays

Bilingual Learning Experiences for the Holidays

Holidays may bring extended breaks from school, but that doesn’t mean they aren’t a fantastic time to offer your children some unique learning experiences. In fact, the holidays are rich with opportunities for kids to broaden their knowledge on cultural and communicative topics, if parents provide them with the tools to learn. Let’s take a look at some of the fun and innovative ways children can expand their bilingual learning experiences at home during their holiday breaks from school.

Holiday Bilingual Learning Experiences

The fact is, children master the art of becoming bilingual much easier through immersion learning – or being all-encompassed in dual languages both in school and out. It goes without saying then that parents who make a point to incorporate language learning at home give their children a more thorough understanding of second languages and the greatest chance at being truly fluent in both as they grow.

So how do you go about incorporating a second language in learning experiences at home – especially over the holidays or extended times away from school? One of the easiest ways is by adding various cultural experiences to your family holiday repertoire in order to let your child see first-hand how other cultures celebrate the season.

Ways to Incorporate Cultural Learning Over the Holidays

There are virtually unlimited ways in which parents can add cultural learning experiences for their children over the holidays, so it’s really up to you which angle you choose to take. You don’t need to plan a trip to a foreign country in order to give your child a bit of immersion learning over break. There are things as simple as baking cookies from various cultures to acting out traditional activities practiced around the world – all of which will give your child an invaluable cultural experience and a better understanding of how others celebrate during this time.

If your child is enrolled in foreign language learning in school, that is a great place to start when considering cultural holiday learning activities. To expand on their learning, take a look at the traditions and practices of the language they are studying in school and plan some activities at home that will expand their understanding while they’re home on break.

Depending upon the culture, you could add a holiday baking day that allows your children to experience the various sweets enjoyed by their language of study. You could also prepare a holiday dinner together using the traditional foods and preparation of that culture. If food isn’t your thing, try looking into other traditions of the culture such as candle lighting ceremonies, parades, or even things like hiding brooms or placing shoes by a window – each culture has their own celebratory methods that are sure to enhance your child’s learning experience.

Keep the Learning Growing at Home

There are so many festivities and traditions celebrated by different cultures each year during the holiday season. Being on winter break from school doesn’t have to mean a break from learning – bring some culture and immersion learning into your child’s routine by trying new experiences and adventures related to their language learning. Do a little search to find out area festivals or activities you may have nearby or get ideas on how you can add fun learning tricks at home!

Visible Learning – How Can Parents Help at Home?

A core belief at Tessa International School is that all of our teachers should continually improve our teaching practices. Over the summer I read a book that is receiving a lot of praise from renowned educators:  10 Mindframes for Visible Learning: Teaching for Success by John Hattie and Klaus Zierer.


Unlike many books devoted to pedagogy, Hattie and Zierer used scientific-based evidence (for example, several meta studies) to determine ten key ‘mindframes’ for excellent teachers.

One simple take-away for teachers:  instead of going into a classroom and asking oneself, ‘How can I be a great teacher?’ or ‘How can my students learn the best?’ 10 Mindframes suggests that teachers should say to themselves:  ‘My job here is to evaluate my impact on my students.’

I invite you now to reflect when you were a child:  which teachers made the greatest impact on you?  Why?  Which moments with your parents impacted you the most?  Why?  How can you make similar impactful moments on your own child?

As a parent of a 4 year-old and a 2 year-old and a teacher myself, I often ask myself how we as parents (whether we have education backgrounds or not) can help our children become better learners and world citizens.  So I have written a few suggestions for parents who wish to make learning more impactful for students, based on many of the mindframes.

1. I am an evaluator of my impact on my child’s learning

As a parent you have a tremendous impact on your children. Do you occasionally reflect upon the memories that you are making during ‘teachable moments?’ As an example, my family and I just moved all of our belongings from house to another. Needless to say–it was an intense two days and there was a fair share of unexpected moments. My children were a part of the moving process and they saw moments that were a bit, shall we say….frustrating?  As my wife and I occasionally got discombobulated I remained very aware that my children are learning how to deal with frustration—from us.

Your children, especially if they are young, are learning so much…from you! Are you evaluating the impact you are making on your child on a day to day basis?

2. I collaborate with my peers about my conceptions of progress and my impact

Do you consult other parents from time to time, or are you so confident that you are the best parent in the world that you never need to speak to anyone?  In my humble opinion, having an open mind, key to the IB Learner Profile, is extremely important to becoming a better parent. Just because something worked with you as a child, for example, doesn’t mean that it will necessarily work the same way on your own child. As an aside, I’d like to suggest that you check out a fascinating review of a book that compares parenting styles in France, the US, and Peru here

As a general rule, the biggest issue that I see with American parenting is ‘helicopter parenting.’ Giving your children opportunities to take risks is extremely important. And check out Erika Christakis’s The Importance of Being Little if you want some advice on this.

3. I am a change agent and believe my child can improve

Do you have fixed beliefs about your child?  ‘My son is great at… singing, but not so good at sports.’ Have you ever said or thought something like this? Though these observations and ‘rules-of-thumb’ may at times be helpful to you to better understand your child, you also might be making assumptions that simply are not true. And why would such assumptions be bad?  Well, if your child implicitly knows that he or she is not good at ‘x’ or is not meant to be ‘x,’ then guess what? He might just stop trying entirely to be ‘x.’ And he may only be two years old!

4.  I strive to provide my child with challenge and not merely have him or her do his or her best

Teachers often learn about Lev Vygotsky’s concept of the Zone of Proximal Development during teacher training.  This fancy-sounding concept is essentially the idea of giving every child just the right balance of challenge and support. Do you give your children too much support?  This is often what I see as an educator when I watch parent-child interactions.  Don’t be afraid to challenge your children. Personally, I have learned the most when I was suddenly on my own with a challenge. Remember the first time you drove a car on your own?  How you suddenly knew, ‘This is real.’ And how quickly you learned a million things?  The same is true with children.

5. I give feedback and help my child understand it, and I interpret and act on feedback given to me

Do you give your child specific feedback relating to the way he or she acts?  Manners such as saying ‘please’ and ‘thank you,’ for instance, don’t come naturally to children. When you see your child acting politely or impolitely, do you give him specific feedback?

6. I engage as much in dialogue as monologue

Are you ‘the rule of law’ in your home, or do you give your children choice?  Naturally, not everything can be a choice. But do you listen to your children when they say what they like or don’t like?

7. I build relationships and trust so that learning can occur, where it is safe to make mistakes and learn from others

How is your relationship with your child?  What could you do to improve it?

8. I identify and build on my child’s prior experiences and initial learning level

Do you make connections to other things that have happened to your child?  For instance, if you have been on vacation with your child sometime in the past, and see something that reminds you of this event, do you help the child make the connection?  In a way, this relates to the teaching concept of spiraling. This is the idea that in the classroom you always return and review what you have learned previously. Imagine teaching your child a concept such as octagon.  You look at Stop signs, you draw them, and your child really understands what an octagon is. Do you ever bring up the topic of octagon again or do you assume that your child knows what it is without reinforcing it?  Naturally, you bring it back.   

I hope that some of these suggestions can help you be an even more awesome parent than you are now! 

Here is to a great year at Tessa International School!

The Process of Language Learning in Children

The Process of Language Learning in Children

In the earliest years, few things are as highly anticipated and nurtured as a child’s developing language skills. Language learning in children is a complicated, yet natural process involving a number of factors and influences.

Language Learning in Early Childhood

It’s no secret that reading to children and frequent conversations via immersion are critical components of a child’s learning process. Continual interactions with language – both written and verbal – are highly regarded by some as being the most important aspect of language learning.

During a child’s earliest years, they pick up skills and make associations between sounds and objects via interactions with their environments and those around them. In large part, it is simply a natural progression that takes place over time, using repetition and being immersed in specific linguistics, but there is much more to language learning than simply being around it.

Cognitive Functionality

From birth until middle childhood, children’s brains are essentially primed for language learning at impeccable rates. They grasp linguistic keys from practically every aspect of their environments from casual daily conversations going on around them to nightly bedtime stories.

“Language acquisition is a product of active, repetitive, and complex learning. The child’s brain is learning and changing more during language acquisition in the first six years of life than during any other cognitive ability (they) are working to acquire.” – Scholastic.com.

The earliest few years of a child’s life is the most crucial period for expanding their communication skills. After this point, hormonal changes will begin to hinder their ability to further pick up language learning on the same level. Because of this, it’s important to find ways to make the most of the critical communication window.

More Than Just Talking

Helping our children get the most advantageous benefits during their peak language learning years is an important part of their advancement. While most parents know that reading to your children on a regular basis is an excellent way to help them develop their communication skills, there are a number of other ways that are just as important.

Children learn by being immersed in language and witnessing others interacting as frequently as possible. Having basic conversations and engaging them with a pointed, inquisitive nature, will help them develop critical thinking skills as well as gathering the basics needed for all forms of more complex communications later in life.

Other excellent teaching methods include using any form of medium that makes learning more fun and engaging. Easy ways to expand their vocabulary can be through music, poetry, comic books, or even cooking can give a fun twist to learning new words.

The important thing to keep in mind, however, is to understand that communication is more than simply learning how to speak or use correct grammar. It is just as important to help your child develop effective listening skills as well.

“Engage children in listening exercises. We often forget that language is both receptive and expressive… It is essential that children are listening, receiving accurately and processing effectively what they hear,” explains Scholastic.com.

Overall, the best advantage you can give your child is to understand that their earliest years give the greatest opportunity for communication advancement. Utilize those years by maximizing their exposure to language learning opportunities from every angle.

Language Learning: Why Children Pick Up Linguistics Faster

Language Learning: Why Children Pick Up Linguistics Faster

If you’re considering adding a second language to your child’s curriculum, you might be wondering how it may affect their academic progress. While many parents are concerned with how the additional language may induce confusion, studies have shown the opposite to be true.

When it comes to language learning, children are actually built to absorb information with higher efficiency and understanding than adults. In fact, some studies have shown that the earlier children are introduced to multiple languages, the more they comprehend throughout the rest of their lives. So why is that?

Language Learning Process

Researchers have spent decades looking at the effects of introducing children to multiple languages at various stages. From early education to post-secondary exposure and beyond, there is a clear shift in not only how we learn, but how effectively we absorb new information.

By understanding how this process works in relation to our age, it becomes clearer why children pick up multiple languages easier than adults do. It all begins with our brain functionality throughout our various life stages.

Brain Functionality

To understand why children pick up linguistics so much easier than adults do, we must first look at how their brains process information. According to researchers, children’s brains function in a manner that’s designed to have maximum absorption. Over time, our brains adapt and begin functioning on a more streamlined level, decreasing the potential absorption of new information.

Neurology professor at UCLA, Dr. Paul Thompson, explains that at age 11, our brains begin to change. At our earliest education ages, our brains are primed for absorbing information at impressive rates by using the “deep motor” portion, or prefrontal cortex. As we age, this section of our brain levels off its growth and slowly begins to decline. As a result, it becomes more difficult for us to take on new language information at the same rate as younger children.

“Young children are hard-wired to learn language in the first few years of life,” explains HowToAdult.com. As a result, children learn by immersion and picking up language clues around them, whereas adults and older children must make an effort to study the subjects and master the language rules.

When we near puberty, our brains begin to change and along with it, our language learning process. In fact, researchers now believe there is a window of prime opportunity for picking up multiple languages: from birth until mid-childhood hormonal changes. During this time, it is believed that our brains are optimized for naturally picking up communication skills, multiple languages included.

Learning Without Trying

The difference between how children and adults pick up languages, begins with brain functionality, but certainly doesn’t end there. To better understand why children master bilingualism much easier than those older than them, you must also consider the methods of learning.

When young children begin learning a new language, it’s most often due to being immersed in the language at home. In other words, they are surrounded by others who frequently use the language around them, and they begin to pick up the new linguistics as a matter of hearing it used regularly.

On the contrary, most older children and adults who begin to study a new language do so because they are consciously choosing to. In these instances, the individual is essentially using a different portion of the brain, which is focused more on memorization than immersion.

“To make this easier to understand, think of it like listening to a song. When you listen to a song enough times, you learn the rhythms and lyrics whether you like it or not; this is unconscious learning, similar to how children learn languages,” explains PSU.edu.

How We Learn

Understanding that children learn languages differently than adults is just part of the equation. Picking up the complexities of a new language is more than being immersed in constant conversation and having the brain wired for comprehension.

Though these are certainly key aspects of why children learn languages faster, there are other factors to consider as well. For starters, children are much less concerned with mastering a language and more concerned with simply being able to use it.

What does this mean? Children pick up languages by using association – learning by seeing and doing things simultaneously. On the contrary, as we become older, language learning is more deliberate and focuses on studying grammatical rules, making it a different process altogether.

Creativity and Openness

Furthering the concept of immersion learning and brain functionality differences, children are also much more flexible in interpretation of what they see. As we age, we tend to switch to a much more fixed vision of things as a result of years of discovery and information absorption.

All of our life experiences give way to our minds basically seeing things and classifying them based on what we have already learned. This is a much more rigid viewpoint that can inhibit our ability to pick up new information. Children, on the other hand, are much more open to creative thinking and, by extension, learning new concepts.

Uninhibited Learning

Furthering the process of immersion learning, children have a tendency to be much more fearless and determined to push forward with learning. Children are rewarded for trying to speak difficult words and applauded for their strides in learning. As a result, they don’t fear looking foolish for not understanding something as older children and adults often do.

Without inhibitions holding them back, children are much freer to enhance their language learning skills. They do this by being vocal and repeating what they hear, strengthening their understanding of linguistics simultaneously.

Mastering Language

In the earliest years, children are not expected to master linguistics. They are praised for their strides in learning and language is applauded at the most rudimentary levels. We don’t expect children to speak on the same level of comprehension as older children and adults which also helps them to grasp bilingualism faster.

“Very young children don’t need to master the complexity of language that older children and adults need to communicate well. They know fewer words and use simpler sentence structures, which means they have less to learn,” explains HowToAdult.com.

Since there are so many factors that can influence how easily we pick up multiple languages, it’s difficult to pinpoint the prime conditions for learning. However, it’s evidenced that children have a distinct advantage for mastering bilingualism in their earliest years over all other age ranges.

The Bilingual Student Advantage in STEM Learning

The Bilingual Student Advantage in STEM Learning

It’s no secret that language and literacy are the cornerstones to education. The more communicatively proficient your child becomes, the greater their overall educational experience becomes. This is because knowing how to communicate effectively is the basis for all learning subjects.

It goes without saying then, that by increasing your child’s language and literacy skills – say by adding a second language – you’re increasing their cognitive ability overall. In fact, more and more studies have discovered that bilingual children show signs of significantly higher comprehension across all academic subjects than their monolingual counterparts.

The Bilingual Advantage

According to NPR.org, “People who speak two languages often outperform monolinguals on general measures of executive function.” In layman’s terms, bilingual children are adept at deciding when to use each language, giving them a higher level of focus and cognitive abilities than children who speak one language.

Executive function control allows children to decipher speech – the basis for all learning – at a much greater level of authority. Since they are forced to consider each individual speaking circumstance to determine which language to use in each situation, bilingual children gain greater insight. This insight transpires into skills such as problem-solving, decoding, focus, and the ability to read social and environmental cues – all of which are prime skills for Science Technology Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) learning.

STEM Learning

STEM learning has long been a focus of educators and professionals across the globe. Studying the areas which are responsible for things such as medical advancements, scientific discoveries, pharmaceutical breakthroughs and global structural components are clearly an important set of studies.

There is a reason these areas are so important – they are complex and critical to the advancement of civilization as a whole. With such a complex set of subjects, many parents ask if there is any way to give their child an advantage as they introduce STEM subjects to their little ones.

Bilingual Bonus

You may (or may not) be surprised to learn that bilingualism is a fantastic way to prepare your child for future STEM studies. Going back to communication and language as the core for all learning, it’s easy to understand how a child who is highly proficient in literacy and language studies would have a smoother time picking up complex STEM studies.

“Bilingual children are able to focus more intently on the topics at hand and avoid distractions from academic pursuits. They are also able to demonstrate higher levels of cognitive flexibility, or the ability to change responses based on environment and circumstances,” reports TheAdvocate.org.

This ability to change responses and remain focused easily translates to better understanding things like scientific hypotheses and mathematical equations. The cognitive flexibility gives way to a deeper academic experience across all STEM studies in general.

Overall, the bilingual child is equipped with brain functions more powerful than others. This allows them to continue grasping more complex subjects and concepts throughout their lives. Their puzzle-solving, highly focused minds will pick up STEM subjects on a level high enough to sustain years of continued study and understanding.

Improving Your Child's Language and Literacy Skills

Improving Your Child’s Language and Literacy Skills

Few things are as critical to a child’s educational success as a firm grasp on language and literacy skills. The ability to communicate effectively crosses over into every area of study your child will embark upon in their lifetime. This fact alone makes these skills crucial to their future ability to grasp complex subjects.

The Importance of Language and Literacy Skills

Being proficient in one or more languages has unparalleled benefits that will be seen across the board in your child’s education. Since language is the basis for all teaching efforts (and also the key to communicating effectively overall), it’s understandable why it’s such an important skill to hone.

The importance of language and literacy skills go well beyond the communication aspect, however. Students who focus on deepening their language base will find themselves gaining proficiencies in their other studies as well.

According to the American Council on the Teaching of Foreign Languages (ACTFL), students who excel in language and literacy show:

  • Greater test scores on standard tests
  • Higher levels of focus and understanding
  • Increased ability to grasp scientific hypotheses
  • Higher ACT and SAT scores
  • Greater problem-solving capabilities

These are just a few of the ways in which language and linguistics will lend to the greater overall educational success of your child. Since language development requires children to hone their focusing skills, they will then be able to apply the same level of focus to their other studies.

Literacy Learning Techniques

Whether your child is focusing on one language or multilingual studies, they will have set coursework within their classroom. It’s certainly no surprise that teachers have lesson plans for their students, but you may be surprised to learn how much things have changed since your days in the classroom.

Evidence has shown students respond well to teaching methods that incorporate several different learning aids. Some of these include items that can be used as visual props while others could use online programs and themed learning (animal week, gardening week, etc.).

The key to language learning in the classroom, however, is a focus on interactive conversational opportunities. It’s less about learning grammar rules and more about learning to actually communicate.

“The primary purpose of language is communication – grammar is important, but there’s a bigger picture. Language is no longer seen as being learned through mechanical exercises, it’s developed through students interacting and engaging,” explains Huw Jarvis, a professor at the University of Salford’s School of Humanities, Languages and Social Science.

According to Jarvis, motivation is the most critical component to driving a student’s interest in language learning. Since students tend to learn faster through immersion in situations which require them to find ways to communicate, allowing them to choose their own medium gives way to a greater desire to learn.

Developing a Desire to Learn at Home

In order to truly give your child the full-on immersion experience, it’s critical to continue the language and literacy learning experience outside of the classroom as well. Most parents understand that a child’s educational success is a multi-faceted experience that involves both home life and school life.

So how do we go about providing our children with enriching language learning experiences at home? Engage them and motivate them – it’s as simple (or as complex) as that.

“The best method is the method you like… Languages cannot be taught, they can only be learned,” explains Language Consultant, Luca Lampariello.

Finding out what motivates your child to learn at home involves a basic trial and error process. Unless you’ve already figured out how to motivate your child (and if so, kudos!), you may need to engage in some simple activities with them to see what they like. Find out what drives them to want to learn more.

Finding Out What Motivates Your Child

One of the simplest ways you can help your child nurture a desire to learn and excel with language and literacy is by different communicative experiences at home. Talk to them. Sing to them. Create stories with them involved. Allow your child to “read” you a story by telling you what’s going on in the sequential pictures. There are endless ways to involve them in language learning at home.

The National Center on Improving Literacy explains that by simple daily communication efforts at home, parents can help their child improve their language learning immensely. Daily communications can be as simple as a pointed discussion about their day (asking specific questions to get them to think and give detailed answers), or as thorough as labeling items at home for a language visual.

“Engage in joint reading, drawing, singing, storytelling, reciting, game playing, and rhyming. When joint reading, you and your child take turns reading parts of a book. When reading, ask her to connect the story… Give positive feedback and ask open-ended questions during joint reading to boost her interest and critical thinking skills.” – ImprovingLiteracy.org

By including daily language activities such as reading and storytelling, you’ll gain insight into what interests your child the most. Find stories that inspire them and pique their curiosity – this will help give them a stronger drive to learn more. Asking pointed questions on the topic will encourage them to focus on the task and go deeper for a greater understanding. No matter the topic, that will give way to an overall improved language and literacy experience.

A More Complete Learning Experience

If you want to apply a more direct learning approach at home, speak with your child’s teacher to discuss what methods are utilized in the classroom. Educators are usually more than willing to speak with parents about their teaching methods and how they can be enhanced at home.

You can also take a closer look in their bookbags to gain some insight into what they’re focusing on in the classroom. If you see they have a themed week at school, try continuing the theme at home. As examples, if they have a color theme for a week, use corresponding color foods in dinner plans, colored bath water, or planned outfits for school to bring up topics later.

They key to continuing language and literacy learning at home is to simply communicate. Communicate with your children about their days or share a good story with them. Communicate with their teachers to learn any tips or subject ideas to coordinate home learning themes and techniques with classroom learning. Above all, the most important thing you can do to help your child develop their language skills is to continue to engage them in communication. Talk with your kids and talk often – it’s that simple!

Why Early Bilingual Education Boosts Brain Function and Development

Why Early Bilingual Education Boosts Brain Function and Development

There has been an immense amount of discussion and research done on bilingualism in recent years. As scholars and educators dive deeper into the effects of studying multiple languages, more and more evidence is found to support international language learning.

Over the past two decades, researchers have focused specifically on the cognitive benefits gained by children who are introduced to bilingualism at an early age. Specifically, they have measured the ways in which children learn and react to various aspects of their education and found astounding results for multilingual children.

According to NPR.org, these results show benefits so great, they will be utilized and carried throughout your child’s entire life. It is a lifetime of learning in a way that is unparalleled to any other learning approach available.

Bilingual Education Benefits

While the benefits of bilingual education are exponential, there are several benefits that are so great, they should be considered priority in terms of learning. Among these benefits are invaluable skill mastery of things like problem solving, concentration and focus on any given task, and the ability to think critically and choose words with purpose and meaning.

“Researchers found that young adults proficient in two languages performed better on attention tests and had better concentration than those who spoke only one language,” according to LiveScience.com.

Problem Solving Skills

For starters, children who are introduced to a second language, are essentially challenging their brains to sort out multiple information and channel appropriate times to use each piece. By doing this, it is similar to solving riddles or puzzles – it forces the brain to consider information as a whole (call it “big picture thinking”) and sort out conflicting data. In terms of language learning, the child must sort out each language and decipher which language is appropriate to use at different times.

“Bilingual people often perform better on tasks that require conflict management… (because they possess) the ability to ignore competing perceptual information and focus on the relevant aspects,” explains the US National Library of Medicine.

Mastering Focus

Another benefit of bilingual education is the inadvertent mastery of focus and concentration. Since bilingual children must constantly think before speaking in order to ensure they choose the correct language to adequately communicate, they are naturally training their minds to reach mastery levels of focus and control.

“Because both of a bilingual person’s language systems are always active and competing, that person uses these control mechanisms every time she or he speaks or listens. This constant practice strengthens the control mechanisms and changes the associated brain regions,” the National Library of Medicine explains.

Critical Thinking

This level of concentration and focus that children with bilingual education will master, is what leads to an impressive critical thinking development. Essentially, by training their minds to pause before speaking and focus on what they wish to say, bilingual students learn the basis for a lifetime of critical thinking skills.

“Bilingual children as young as age 3 have demonstrated a head start on tests of perspective-taking and theory of mind – both of which are fundamental social and emotional skills,” reports NPR.org.

Overall, children who participate in bilingual education programs are proving to be more adept at communication in general, as well as having a greater cognitive ability and focus than their monolingual counterparts. Research continues to pour in on the benefits of bilingualism in early childhood education, but the results already reported have shown exponential plusses to international language learning.

Teach Them Young: International Language in Early Education

Teach Them Young: International Language in Early Education

When it comes to language learning, most educational professionals agree that it’s never too early to begin bilingual teachings. While you may think introducing a second (or third) language to your child as they are still mastering their primary language could be confusing, the opposite is actually true. In fact, studies have found that there is no better time to begin bilingualism than during early childhood development stages.

“Between the ages of 0-3, the brains of young children are uniquely suited to learn a second language as the brain is in its most flexible stage,” according to researchers at Michigan State University.

In fact, researchers have found that children begin picking up multiple languages and discerning between them within the first few months of life. It is something that is learned with the same level of ease as any other major milestone during the early years.

International Language Learning

International language learning, or bilingualism, is the process of absorption and comprehension of different languages simultaneously. Since language learning forms the basis for all other learning avenues throughout life, it makes sense to consider the benefits of expanding the language learning process.

In layman’s terms, we use language to communicate every imperative process. Whether it be conveying our feelings or teaching any range of subjects, we use language to progress through life. For this reason, language learning is considered one of the most important areas of a child’s education. By extension, learning additional languages only serves to further this core educational commodity. In short, the more proficient a child is with their language skills, the easier it will be for them to excel in other areas as well.

Learning Bilingualism Early

Knowing that bilingualism is the key to unlocking learning potential throughout your child’s education is only the first part of the equation. Many parents question when to begin teaching their children, afraid an early introduction will lead to confusion.

According to researchers at Michigan State University, however, the earlier you introduce children to a second language, the better off they will be. In fact, it has been shown that children are able to pick up bilingualism much faster than adolescents and adults. Yes, kids will learn faster (and more efficiently) than anyone else when it comes to bilingualism.

“As adults, we have to consider grammar rules and practice, but young children absorb sounds, structures, intonation patterns and the rules of a second language very easily. Up until the age of 8, young learners benefit from flexible ear and speech muscles that can detect differences between the sounds of a second language.” – www.canr.msu.edu.

Cognitive Flexibility

It is this flexibility during the early education years that makes children excellent bilingual sponges. Their ability to pick up on the subtleties of different languages are unparalleled at any other age.

Beyond their ability to learn international language much quicker than their older counterparts, the benefits of childhood bilingualism are astounding. By pushing children’s language limits, we are essentially giving them critical tools to help with virtually every aspect of cognitive reasoning later in life.

Learning Control

Essentially, when children learn second or third languages at an early age, they are also learning so many other valuable skills. What once was feared as confusion, researchers now say that children’s minds are being “tested” when bilingual children communicate. They are faced with two separate ways to verbalize what they want to say and must concentrate on which language is appropriate for their situation.

While this may seem trivial – or even confusing – in early childhood, the cognitive functions required for mastering this involve learning a high level of focus and control. Bilingualism teaches children to think before they speak; to choose their words carefully. These are skills that are critical to flexible thinking and learning all through their lives.

Object Permanence

Another critical aspect to international language learning in early childhood lies with object permanence. It may seem like a simple lesson, but while young children are learning about their surroundings and how to communicate, they also learn about physical attributes of their environments.

Part of this learning is object permanence – the knowledge that something doesn’t just “disappear” simply because it is out of sight. With bilingualism, children pick up this concept on a deeper level by understanding that the same object may have many different names, even though the object remains constant.

Cognitive Development Benefits

In addition to aiding in core learning milestones like object permanence, bilingualism in the early years also helps children’s cognitive development grow exponentially. The intricacies of mastering a second language help to sharpen the mind with things like problem solving and decoding puzzles.

“Bilingual children are also more adept at solving certain kinds of mental puzzles… the bilingual experience improves the brain’s command center, thus giving it the ability to plan, solve problems and perform other mentally demanding tasks.” – Michigan State University.

Additional Benefits of International Language Learning

According to research done by psychologists Ellen Bialystok and Michelle Martin-Rhee (as reported by Michigan State University), international language learning in the earliest years unlocks numerous skills in cognitive development. These skills are some of the greatest attributes your child will carry with them and will aid them in improving every aspect of their education along the way.

In fact, MSU states, the improved performance of bilingual children has been directly linked to the “workout our brain receives while switching back and forth between one language and another when deciding how to communicate.” This cognitive workout has even been linked to lower rates of mental illnesses such as dementia and Alzheimer’s later in life.

Overall, the problem-solving skills that are mastered with bilingualism are a highly invaluable asset that will aid children throughout their learning careers. Combining the ability to focus on a task at hand with the ability to sort out pieces of a puzzle (both figuratively and literally), bilingualism is one of the greatest learning tools you can give your children.

Focus on International Baccalaureate: The Teaching Differences

Focus on International Baccalaureate: The Teaching Differences

The benefits of International Baccalaureate (IB) programs are unparalleled during primary and secondary education, as well as post-graduation. IB programs give students a unique learning experience they will carry with them throughout their educational careers and beyond.

According to the IB organization’s website, the programs are gaining momentum collectively. Their latest annual statistics bulletin, published in March 2019, showed an increase of 39 percent in global IB program participation.

So, what is it about IB teaching programs that is garnering so much attention in the educational world? To put it simply, it’s an educational curriculum that’s focused on individual thinking with global responsibility.

To understand its effectiveness, we must first understand its differences. In other words, how does IB teaching differ from traditional teaching methods?

The IB Program

The International Baccalaureate program is one that was founded in Switzerland half a century ago with the purpose of broadening global learning and responsibility. As such, the teachings have since expanded immensely and developed methods that promote this multicultural educational experience.

Since its creation, the IB program has grown exponentially and is now incorporated in thousands of educational facilities worldwide. It is also offered across four different educational program levels ranging from early childhood education up through adult career programs. Each level focuses on different aspects of multicultural learning, but the techniques share the same basis. They are also distinctly different from traditional teaching methods.

IB Teaching Differences

IB programs are focused on giving students the ability to expand their knowledge outside the four walls of their homes and classrooms. The teaching is based on global communities and critical thinking that impacts larger-scale communities. In other words, it is focused on tearing down the cultural divides that separate us with traditional learning.

The cornerstone of IB teaching lies with bilingualism and multilingualism. In order to break down cultural barriers, we must first be able to communicate with other cultures. For that reason, foreign language is an integral part of all IB programs.

IB learning is about so much more than bilingualism, however. Course offerings in foreign languages alone do not qualify an educational facility for IB learning credentials. The IB learning experience is about using those courses as one part of a multi-faceted teaching approach.

Multi-Faceted Teaching

According to the International Baccalaureate Organization’s website, there are specific criteria that define an IB program and differentiate it from standardized teaching. The teaching approach must include the following:

  • An emphasis on critical thinking and encouraging students to challenge their knowledge
  • Key teachings on procuring credible, quality research on all inquests
  • Encouraging students to think on a global scale – outside of local and national levels and agendas
  • Focus on developing multilingual skills to expand global communication opportunities

Overall, the difference between IB teaching and traditional standardized teaching approaches lies with the bigger picture. The focus of IB teaching is to give students a solid foundation for learning that will drive them in their educational careers for years to come. It is to give students a sense of purpose measured well beyond localized issues and test results. IB teaching instead, focuses on arming students with tools to break down international barriers, and the drive to actively participate in the world around them. It is a method that instills a feeling of multicultural connectivity and global responsibility – one which will follow them throughout their lives.