Language Spotlight Series: Spanish - Giving Your Child a Career Advantage

Language Spotlight Series: Spanish – Giving Your Child a Career Advantage

More and more evidence has come to light in recent years in support of adding a second (or third) language to your child’s curriculum. While many parents may be apprehensive about introducing additional language learning to their child at a young age, research has shown early education is a fantastic time to begin bilingual teaching.

According to the U.S. National Library of Medicine, studies have shown that the most important learning process of early education involves language and literacy development. These two skills, which are intertwined, form the basic foundation for all other learning processes your child will encounter the rest of their lives.

“The primary goal of early schooling is to establish the foundational skills upon which children will build their educational futures. The most important of these abilities are the language and literacy competence.” – The U.S. National Library of Medicine.

It goes without saying then, that a focus on language learning is the key to the best academic potential for children. In fact, adding dual language learning to their academia during early education years, serves to boost their comprehension skills even further, according to recent research by the National Institute of Health (NIH).

As the NIH reports, the Lindholm-Leary study, conducted in 2014, showed “…children in the bilingual program outperform(ed) the English-only instruction group in both English and Spanish test scores by the end of second grade.”

The research results leave us with compelling evidence in support of introducing bilingual learning at a young age. Which in turn, begs the question, “how do we choose which language is best?” Our Language Spotlight Series is going to take a look at two of the top ranked languages chosen for children around the world: Spanish and French. This month we will be focusing our articles on discovering the benefits of each language option, beginning with Spanish.

Spotlight on Spanish

According to international census results, conducted by Swedish educational group, Nationalencyklopedin.com, in 2010 there were 405 million Spanish speakers throughout the world. These census results showed there are nearly 50 million more people globally who speak Spanish than there are who speak English – and that was 9 years ago. The numbers are only increasing with each year.

What does this mean? Well, to put it simply, there are more opportunities for your child if they speak Spanish than there are if they speak English. Imagine the possibilities if they were bilingual and able to speak both.

“In the United States alone there are over 50 million people who speak Spanish as their native or second language. So even if you don’t fancy yourself a globetrotter, Spanish is probably the most useful language to learn…” – Babbel.com.

If you base your decision on numbers, Spanish is a likely front-runner for bilingual education options for your child, but it’s so much more than just a popular choice. Here are five of the top benefits to consider when choosing Spanish as a second language for your child’s early educational curriculum:

1 – Opportunities

When you choose a language that is the second most spoken language across the globe, you’re choosing so much more than just a language voted most likely to succeed or most popular in the annual polls. You’re choosing opportunities for your child.

With so many people speaking Spanish – both in the United States and around the world – learning the more common language seems a no-brainer. By learning to communicate with a larger base of the global population, you will be giving your child the tools to close gaps between cultures and open up lines of communication with endless individuals and multi-lingual opportunities.

“Spanish is the second most-spoken language in the world. The opportunities for Spanish speakers across the globe are endless!” – Leapfrog.com.

2 – Stronger Linguistic Core

Perhaps one of the greatest advantages to consider when signing your child up for Spanish language instruction, lies in the foundational work. While you may be afraid your child will be confused by using multiple languages in the early years, the contrary is actually true – particularly when learning Spanish.

English and Spanish share many commonalities in their core linguistics. In fact, both have strong Latin roots and have multiple words that are so similar they are basically the same (or literally, are the same) – and easily understood.

“Studying Spanish increases children’s understanding of the English language and how different languages evolve, which can also help with learning English vocabulary.” – Leapfrog.com.

Going back to the study findings listed above from the U.S. National Library of Medicine, language and linguistic learning is the most critical piece of your child’s early education. By extension then, choosing a course of study that helps boost your child’s ability to understand and develop these foundational linguistic skills makes perfect sense.

3 – Ease of Understanding

In a related benefit, since Spanish and English share so many commonalities, it also makes it a fairly simple language for young minds to pick up. There are literally thousands of words in the Spanish language that share a base with English words. Actually, there are several thousand that share an exact same spelling and meaning in both languages.

Words like capital, editorial, federal, hospital, manual, normal, and thousands more share the same meaning and spelling, just to give an example. English and Spanish are highly relatable and easily understood, so it goes without saying that the earlier you begin bilingual studies, the easier it is to pick up. With so many similarities, children will be able to pick up Spanish as a second language in no time.

4 – Breaking Barriers

Because learning a second language is more than just opening opportunities, it’s important to consider the bilateral advantages. While your child will certainly be picking up fantastic core linguistic lessons and opening doors to communicating with a larger portion of the global population, there is more to the picture.

According to Babbel Magazine, there are actually more Spanish speaking individuals in the United States than there are in Spain. The Spanish-speaking population in the United States is second in size only to that of Mexico – giving an even greater opportunity for immersion learning.

With a language as vastly used as Spanish, becoming fluent does more than just open communication lines – it breaks down communication barriers. When the language barriers are taken down, cultural learning and enrichment are open and available for even greater impacts on our children.

“Dual language programs show students a broader world-view, whatever the native language of the student, and lead to greater opportunities for collaborative learning.” – Huffington Post.

5 – Increased Fluency

When you consider all of the factors above, it makes sense to deduce that Spanish as a second language comes with an increased chance for fluency later in life when introduced at an early age. Combining the fact that the two languages share so many similarities, with the fact that they increase linguistic foundations overall, it’s easy to understand how your child will be building a strong potential for continuing their learning later in life.

“It generally takes five to seven years to be proficient in a second language… In other words, U.S. students should be introduced to a second language at a young age in order to be fluent by adulthood.” – Huffington Post.

Overall, when choosing a second language for early childhood education, a vast majority of parents have chosen Spanish for a multitude of reasons. With the increasing Spanish-speaking population and wide-spread use of Spanish across the globe, it’s certainly the most popular choice. It also shares a root in Latin-based linguistics, giving it so many similarities to English and making it an easy-learn for young minds.

Whatever your reason, introducing Spanish to early education students has unparalleled benefits across the board. Speak with bilingual educational professionals near you to learn even more advantages to Spanish instruction!

Language Spotlight Series: How to Choose a Second Language for Your Child

Language Spotlight Series: How to Choose a Second Language for Your Child

Language Spotlight Series: How to Choose a Second Language for Your Child

So, you’ve done your research and you’ve seen the benefits of bilingual education for children… now what? If you’re not already a bilingual household, deciding which second language your child should begin learning can be a difficult decision.

Chances are, you have decided to expand your child’s language learning because you’ve seen the immeasurable benefits that come along with it. And because of this, you now want to ensure your child is not only getting the best bilingual education, but firstly, chooses the right bilingual education option.

Understanding that there really is no “wrong” choice here, deciding which language to introduce to your child boils down to essentially what’s right for them. As such, there are a plethora of options and factors to consider before making a final decision. When you’re trying to choose which language is best for your child to begin learning, you’ll want to weigh the following:

Common Languages

One of the biggest considerations is to take a look at what languages are the most common and the most widely-used. While there’s (unfortunately) no way to predict what career path your child will follow when they become adults, you can try to equip them with the broadest set of language skills, or you can choose a more specific and isolated language.

According to USNews.com, “the three most commonly spoken (foreign) languages are Mandarin (898 million), Spanish (437 million), and Arabic (295 million).” Based on this alone, you may choose to select a language that is widely used across the globe to give them a greater opportunity to utilize their language knowledge later in life.

What if, however, you live in an area dense in French or Chinese culture and an education in those languages would be highly useful locally? In these cases, you may choose to select a language that may not be one of the most widely used but would give your child a huge communication benefit in your own community.

Marketability

If your main concern for teaching your child a second language is to give them a leg-up on the job market competition upon college graduation, then you need to take a look at marketability demands. What does this mean? Essentially, it’s researching what languages are behind the most successful career trends and basing your decision on what would give your child the greatest “marketability” later in life.

It’s no surprise that learning a second language improves a child’s prospects for their career advancements. That in mind, teaching them the most in-demand languages can help them even more, according to Readers Digest at RD.com.

“Proficiency in a second language opens the door to new markets for businesses and allows them to create new relationships with prospective partners,” they explain.

What’s trending? Well, if you go by RD, they suggest introducing your child to either French, German or Mandarin as a second language. Those three are the top choices for what is expected to give the greatest growth opportunities in the foreseeable future.

Cultural Aspects

On the flip side, you may not be looking to groom your child to be the next CEO of a multi-national corporation. Perhaps your reason for adding a second language is closer to home.

Many parents choose to incorporate a language that has cultural or familial meaning to them. Some households may even have the added benefit of teaching through immersion language learning if they are already a multilingual home. The beauty of learning a second language is that it’s highly versatile and multifaceted. Being a melting pot of nationalities and heritages, many in the U.S. choose to embrace their cultural beliefs and extend the teachings to new generations.

While adding a second language certainly gives children an advantage they can carry over into the career world, it isn’t the only reason parents choose to incorporate bilingualism. No matter what your reasoning may be, your child will surely benefit from (and have fun learning) whatever second (or third!) language is chosen!

Language Spotlight Series: The Importance of Bilingualism in Early Childhood Education

Language Spotlight Series: The Importance of Bilingualism in Early Childhood Education

Language Spotlight Series: The Importance of Bilingualism in Early Childhood Education

Parents often seek advice from pediatricians and early education professionals on what their children should be learning. By now it’s pretty much common knowledge that reading to young ones is a fundamental tool, as is having frequent conversations with them. These key components teach children the basics for language and communication foundations that will stay with them for the rest of their lives. We know this, right?

If communication and language development is such a critical part of a learning foundation, then many have considered expanding that learning base by adding additional languages. Bilingual education – the act of learning two or more languages simultaneously – is growing in popularity across the globe in recent decades because of this theory.

Considering the fact that 21 percent of young children are already immersed in a second language at home (Hanen.org), it’s easy to understand why multiple languages are being introduced earlier and earlier in schools. In addition, a growing number of the general population speak a language other than English, so learning to be bilingual is becoming more of the “norm” today than ever before.

While some have been hesitant to add a second language to their young child’s educational repertoire, others are discovering how highly beneficial it can be. According to the U.S. Department of Education, “Learning more than one language is an asset to individuals, families, and our entire society.” In fact, many researchers are encouraging parents to consider adding a bilingual approach to their child’s education for numerous reasons.

When it comes to considering a second language, one misconception is that it may confuse a growing child during the early education stage. It’s easy to understand the basis for these concerns, but researchers have now been able to prove they’re not only incorrect, but the exact opposite is true: bilingual children learn better and faster than other children. (The Hanen Centre)

“Bilingual children are better able to focus their attention on relevant information and ignore distractions” – Hanen.org.

The U.S. Department of Education notes several key benefits to teaching children multiple languages during early childhood. To understand the benefits easier, they broke them down into four basic categories: Cognitive Development, Social-Emotional Development, Learning, and Long-Term Success – all of which, contain major benefits for bilingual children.

Cognitive Development

Perhaps the greatest (and most immediate) benefit parents can witness in children learning a second language involves cognitive development. In fact, the Department of Education states children who begin learning second languages before the age of six will “have an easier time understanding math concepts and solving word problems; developing strong thinking skills; using logic; focusing, remembering, and making decisions; thinking about language; and learning other languages.”

According to their research, becoming bilingual serves as a means to sharpen (not confuse) young minds. Essentially, it helps children form a basis for processing more complex tasks and learning processes throughout the rest of their life. Bilingualism builds a solid (and organized) foundation of cognitive development when introduced during early childhood education.

Social-Emotional Development

Since over one-fifth of the population in the United States consists of multilingual families already, broadening this language experience during school hours only serves to enrich family and community ties. By enveloping the multilingual and multicultural approach outside of family doors, communities grow tighter bonds and understanding with one another.

“Being bilingual supports children in maintaining strong ties with their family, culture, and community. Bilingual children are also able to make new friends and create strong relationships using their second language,” according to the U.S. Department of Education. By bridging the communication gap between languages, bilingual children are able to understand and connect with more individuals, building even stronger friendships within their schools and communities.

In addition to building community relations, research has also shown that bilingual children learn better focus and self-control at critical developmental stages. This crucial skill plays out with overall improved communication experiences with others and again, allows them to build better relationships than students who learn a single language.

Bilingualism and Learning

For most parents, one of the biggest concerns during the early education phase is kindergarten readiness. There is a lot of question surrounding how to help children be prepared to not only attend kindergarten but excel in it.

One of the best ways you can ensure your child will get the most out of their early childhood experiences is to introduce a second language early on, research shows. In fact, the benefits of bilingualism on the learning process of children are something they will carry with them for the rest of their life.

“Because they are able to switch between languages, they develop more flexible approaches to thinking through problems,” explains the Department of Education. This translates to being able to focus on key elements more easily. It essentially helps children learn how to intake only the important facts while weeding out the information that is otherwise irrelevant. By doing this, it allows children to fine-tune their learning abilities for everything else to come. It’s not difficult to imagine how this skill will be critical to have throughout their lives.

Long-Term Success

If you want to grasp the kind of impact a bilingual education will have on your child, look at current demographics. According to statistics, 50-65 percent of all adults across the globe now speak a language other than English. By those statistics alone, those who speak only English are already in the minority.

What does this mean for your child? Well, being in the language-minority will most certainly limit the opportunities available to your child as they reach adulthood. By limiting their ability to communicate on a multilingual basis, it is simultaneously limiting their qualifications for future successes.

“Globally, bilingual and biliterate adults have more job opportunities than monolingual adults. (They) have the opportunity to participate in the global community in more ways, get information from more places, and learn more about people from other cultures,” explains the Department of Education.

Overall, more and more researchers are proving that introducing additional languages at an early age has an immensely positive impact on children. In addition to an increase in their ability to focus, higher cognitive function, and improved social and cultural relations, bilingualism has also been linked to several other benefits. Some of which include staving off degenerative cognitive diseases such as Alzheimer’s and Dementia, and a higher annual salary bracket as a result of superior career qualifications.

“Recent brain studies have shown that bilingual people’s brains function better and for longer after developing (Alzheimer’s)… On average, the disease is delayed by four years compared to monolinguals” – Michigan State University News.

This cognitive advantage (as well as the rest of them mentioned above) all boil down to the flexibility and focus that is generated when individuals are immersed in the bilingual world. When bilingual learning begins during the early education years, it has the added benefit of improving their learning potential in multifaceted ways. While adults will still see many of these benefits if picking up a second language later in life, research has shown children stand to benefit the most by becoming bilingual.

If you’re interested in incorporating bilingual learning into your child’s early educational experience, check out these Different Types of Preschool Bilingual Learning for more information.

Bilingualism and Speech Delays What’s the Connection

Bilingualism and Speech Delays: What’s the Connection?

Bilingualism and Speech Delays What’s the Connection

The world is becoming more multilingual. Nowadays, it’s common for parents to teach their kids two or more languages.

Statistics showed that there are more second language speakers of English than native speakers worldwide. In Canada, 11.9 % of the population speaks a language other than English or French at home. In the United States, the percentage of school-age children speak a language other than English at home.

Despite this, there’s a growing concern among parents with regard to the rise of bilingualism. Others are linking bilingualism to speech delay. Of course, no parent would want to have their children experience delays in speech development or any other kind of growth.

But, is there a valid reason to be worried? Or are we just depriving our children of the advantages of bilingualism because of a misleading myth?

Let’s end all speculations once and for all. Here’s what experts and various studies have said about bilingualism and speech delay.

Dissecting Bilingualism and Speech Delay

A child with speech delay manifests a delay in the use of the mechanisms that produce speech or the actual process of making sounds. A common sign of speech delay is when a child is not meeting the language developmental milestones for their age.

Bilingualism, on the other hand, is often confused as a cause of speech delay because of the two ways of its acquisition — simultaneous and sequential acquisition.

Simultaneous acquisition happens when two languages are introduced to a child at the same time. This means that the second language is taught before the child reaches the age of three. Meanwhile, sequential acquisition is when the second language is introduced after the age of three. At this point, the child has already established his first language.

Although bilingual language development has a slight difference from monolingual language development, it doesn’t necessarily translate into a delay in speech. The cause of speech delay is congenital or present at birth such as hearing impairment, autism, and intellectual disability.

Bilingual and monolingual children start speaking at similar times.

The vocabulary of bilingual children may be smaller than average, but the combined size of his vocabulary from both languages is the same with monolingual children. And while a bilingual child may speak his first word later than a monolingual child, research shows that both monolingual and bilingual children meet language developmental milestones within the same time frames.

It’s also important to note that some children may start speaking earlier than expected while others could be later regardless if they’re raised monolingual or multilingual.

Bilingualism has cognitive and social advantages.

According to Drs. Barbara Lust and Sujin Yang of the Cornell University of Human Ecology, bilingualism does not cause speech delay, language confusion or cognitive problems among children. Instead, it can enhance the children’s ability to focus despite the presence of distractions. Learning and speaking two or more languages can also broaden children’s perspectives and give them easier access to other cultures.

There’s no valid reason to be worried about bilingualism as several studies have already concluded that it doesn’t cause speech delay. What parents can only expect from bilingualism are the benefits it could bring to child development and learning. For instance, bilingualism supports math skills and enhances social abilities among children.

So, don’t miss the chance to improve your child’s potentials. Get them ready for the multilingual world as early as childhood.

Photo by Alyssa Stevenson on Unsplash.

How Bilingualism Supports Math Skills in Children

For many students, speaking two languages is a way of life. Navigating the world as a bilingual student provides many rich benefits for learning. Yet while being bilingual has been shown to increase students’ language skills, parents often wonder whether navigating two languages also has an effect on their child’s ability to learn math.

When PBS explored the issue, they found that bilingual students not only solved word problems, but all types of math problems, in a unique way. Unlike students who only spoke a single language, bilingual students were using the visual and spatial parts of their brain while solving the problems. Scientists are still theorizing as to why this is the case. One theory is that students are visualizing the elements of the problems in their heads (in other words, they’re actually creating pictures to represent multiplying apples or two trains leaving a station at different speeds).

As the New York Times reported, bilingual students also have a host of advantages in education, including the ability to focus on demanding tasks and solve difficult kinds of puzzles. By using dynamic language practices (in other words focusing on the all the linguistic strengths of bilingual students), teachers can help students take full advantage of their bilingual strengths. A 2011 study showed that allowing bilingual students to use both languages to discuss and solve problems increased the mathematical productivity of students. The flexibility bilingual students show in switching between languages also grants them an increase in creativity and problem solving that can enhance their math education.

Another important thing to keep in mind is that students, especially bilingual students, have been shown to be ever adaptive to new surroundings. While bilingual students may initially find it easier or faster to solve problems using their first language, research from the University of Texas at San Antonio found that while students tended to solve arithmetic problems in the language they first learned them in, they were more likely to solve word problems in the language they use regularly. Such research indicates that bilingual students may be more adaptable in solving math problems than first believed.

Bilingual students are uniquely prepared to meet the challenges of mathematics head on when supported by strong teachers and parents.

At Tessa International School, we may have a focus on bilingual education, but we also teach the whole child. We believe that each aspect of learning is connected. To find out more, visit our website or learn about our Summer Camp.

3 Hands-On Pre-Reading Activities for Preschoolers

By Tori Galatro

Your child can get a head start on reading if they learn to recognize letters and sounds at an early age. There are plenty of apps and TV shows that can help your child learn their letters, but hands-on activities are just as great for a number of reasons. For one, they can help your child to develop fine motor skills beyond tapping a screen. Hands-on activities can also help with memorization by providing spatial and physical interaction. Most importantly, hands-on activities tend to be more social, and involve contact with parents and other children. This social emotional contact is essential for learning and developing other crucial skills, as well as helping to create meaningful memories associated with their pre-reading skills. The following three pre-reading hands-on activities are easy to set up, easy to clean up, safe, cheap, and so much fun for young children.

Activity #1: Make an Alphabet Book

This idea comes from the mommy blog Teach Mama. Sick of throwing away those ads you get in the mail from the grocery store? Put them to good use by making an alphabet book! Gather 26 pages of colored construction paper and write one letter at the top of each with marker. Write both capital and lowercase. Even if your child isn’t learning to read yet, they can start to recognize these symbols and learn that they have meaning. Then, go through the magazines and ads with you child and help them to look for items that begin with each letter. Help your child to cut or rip out each item as they go and paste it under the letter. When you’re done, you can help your child to bind the pages together into a book with yarn and a hole punch. Don’t worry if they don’t finish the book. They can add to it anytime the mail comes in and continue to build letter-sound associations.

Activity #2: Play the Alphabet Memory Game

This is another game that you can return to over and over. Take a pack of paper plates and write uppercase letters on half and the equivalent lowercase letters on the other half. Then, mix them up and spread them out on the ground face down. The object of the game is to match the upper with their lower case letters by remembering where each letter was. Each turn, your child turns two letters face up, try to remember them, and then turns them face down. If they get a match, those plates get removed from the board. This game can be challenging for anyone, so it can be played in a group of varying ages. You can join in too! You can try this game several different ways depending on your child’s level of development. They can match equivalent capital letters, match letters to words beginning with that letter, or even match letters to pictures of words beginning with that letter. They can even write or draw on the plates themselves for a whole other activity!

Activity #3: Learn with Alphabet Bingo

All you need for this game are a few printouts which can be found at the mommy blog Crazy Little Projects, available in both capital and lowercase letters. This game is great for any number of children. When you pick the letter, you can show it to them, or just call it out for an added challenge. Children can use candies to block off the letters as they go, or if you don’t want to spoil dinner, they can use cotton balls, coins, or anything you can think up. Since every board is different, younger children can even look at the older children’s boards for help, and it won’t be cheating. Children can use the skills they’ve learned, but everyone has an equal chance of winning.

Why Do Children Learn Languages Faster than Adults?

By Tori Galatro

It’s a commonly held belief that children learn languages faster than adults. For the most part, science and research support this belief. However, there are still a lot of unanswered questions. For example, why do children learn languages faster? How much faster do they learn them? Do they learn them faster because of their environment, their brain chemistry, or some combination of both? Is it possible for adults to learn the same way children do? Let’s look at some of the factors that attempt to answer these fascinating questions.

The Environmental Advantages Children Have When Learning Languages

Children have environmental advantages when learning language that most adults don’t have. Very young children aren’t formally instructed in language the way adults and older children are. They learn by being immersed in multilingual environments. They passively “absorb” the language through contact. When formally instructed, it is through games and songs, not verb conjugation and exams. In fact, adults also learn much faster through immersion, but the cost of immersion is much higher for adults than it is for children. Children have virtually no responsibilities in life, so they have the time and energy to spend hours in environments that challenge their communication skills. Most adults don’t have that luxury.

Children are also better candidates for immersive language learning because they have fewer inhibitions. It’s much easier to learn a language if you’re comfortable making mistakes and sounding foolish, a hurdle that makes most adults extremely anxious. Also, the standard of language competence is much lower for children than it is for adults. They aren’t judged the way adults are so they don’t receive, or give themselves, as much negative feedback when they make mistakes. They also aren’t tested the way an older child would be, so there is less pressure. The learning process is more playful and natural.

As an adult, if you move to a foreign country and nobody speaks your language, you’ll quickly start to learn the new language because you’re motivated to communicate and connect with others. But few adults willingly put themselves in that situation. Young children are often exposed to language in such a situation, but they don’t need to deliberate the merits of their decision. They don’t even know they are learning a new language or know how it may serve them later in life. They just think, “this is how I talk to Dad” or “this is how I talk to my classmate”. It’s the pure desire to communicate that drives the learning.

The Cognitive Advantages Children Have When Learning Languages

Environmental advantages may be important, but it’s hard to deny the cognitive advantage very young children have when learning new languages. Babies and very young children form neural connections at a rapid pace. As the brain develops, it becomes more specialized, reinforcing the neural pathways that are regularly used. This is a good thing because it makes the brain more efficient, but it also makes learning new things more challenging. That’s why those who learn a language at a very young age have the accent of a native speaker. Later in life, those neural shortcuts our brains have created to increase efficiency force us to fall back on the sounds, or phonemes, of languages we already know.

It is because of the brain’s elasticity and rapid neural formation that babies and young children are able to learn languages at a faster rate. This is sometimes referred to as the “critical period”. It is theorized that if a child does not learn any language, including non-verbal languages, during this time period that they may never be able to learn any language, because the necessary neural foundation for it has been permanently damaged. We can’t know the answer to this question because testing it would be inhumane.

The Critical Period of Language Learning

It’s difficult for us to know just how important these factors are when judging the speed of child language learning against the speed of adult language learning. Whatever the primary factor, there are so many advantages to learning languages as a child that it would be a shame not to take advantage of those critical years.

To learn more about how you can enroll your preschooler in a fully immersive bilingual environment, where they can learn languages naturally, visit Tessa International School in Hoboken.

How Bilingualism Promotes Social Skills in Children

by Tori Galatro

In 2016, two studies were conducted by researchers at the University of Chicago on the social effects of childhood bilingualism. Their findings suggest that bilingual children can understand different perspectives more readily than monolingual children. The two studies also remind us of how much we still have to discover about how children perceive and understand others, and how their early experiences transform their understanding. In addition, it provokes questions about how we ought to apply these findings to education and parenting.

The First Study: The Toy Car Experiment

In the first study, researchers took children 4-6 years old and presented them with three toy cars: a small car, a medium car, and a large car. Then, an adult, who could only see the medium and large toy cars, would say, “Oh! I see a small car. Can you move the small car for me?” Some children were able to understand that the car that the adult was referring to must be the medium car. They could understand that the adult could only see the medium and large toy cars so, to them, the “small car” was the medium car. The researchers found that bilingual children moved the medium car more often than monolingual children, who chose the small car instead.

This study suggests that bilingual children are better equipped to put themselves in the shoes of others than monolingual children. This makes sense in a way. If you have multiple languages to choose from, and you need to communicate, you need to be able to see from others’ perspectives. You need to modify your words based on context and perspective. This also suggests that exposing children to multiple languages can help them develop essential social and emotional skills, like empathy, compassion, and communication.

The Second Study: The Banana Experiment

After the results of the first experiment, the researchers wondered if the same result would apply to even younger children. In their next experiment, they chose 14-16 month olds who were just beginning to talk. They presented the children with two bananas. Like in the toy car experiment, one banana was hidden from the adults view, while the other could be seen by both the adult and the child. Then, the adult asked for “the banana”. The bilingual children more often chose the banana that could be seen by both themselves and the adult. Again, this suggests that bilingual children are more accustomed to understanding the experiences of others.

What Does This Mean for Monolingual Children?

Although both experiments showed how bilingual children have an advantage when it comes to interpersonal skills, follow-up experiments held good news for monolingual children. As it turns out, when the same experiments were performed with monolingual children who were sometimes exposed to multilingual environments, they acted the same as the bilingual children. In other words, simply being around different languages can help a child to understand different perspectives.

The researchers also ran cognitive tests for executive function on the bilingual children, monolingual children, and monolingual children who are sometimes exposed to multilingual environments. Scientists already know that bilingualism has positive effects on the brain so they were not surprised to find that the bilinguals scored higher on the cognitive tests. However, both kinds of monolingual children scored the same. This suggests that the social skills gained from being exposed to a multilingual environment are not effects of greater cognitive strength, but rather the knowledge gained from the social experiences themselves. In other words, the social benefits can be obtained without becoming bilingual.

For monolingual parents, this is great news. It means that you don’t need to speak multiple languages at home for your child to benefit from multilingualism. Even limited exposure can help your child to understand different perspectives. The social advantages of understanding different perspectives not only helps your child to think more critically, but it also helps them to become a more empathetic and well-rounded. Contact us at Tessa International School to find out more.

The Different Types of Preschool Bilingual Learning

by Tori Galatro

You may already know that bilingualism can have a hugely positive impact on your child’s future. You may also know that the best time for your child to learn a new language is when they are young. However, there are many ways for children to become bilingual, and many factors that can influence the speed of their language education. When a child reaches preschool-age, from three to five, immersive language learning can be extremely helpful for children that have been exposed to two languages from birth, as well as children who’ve only ever heard one.

The following are common ways researchers distinguish between the differences in early language education. Learning these approaches may help you to think about how your child’s preschool language education can introduce, promote, or supplement their previous experience with bilingual learning.

The Six Models of Childhood Bilingualism

The Huffington Post recently published an article outlining the various ways in which children can learn languages at home, at school, and in their community. The article outlines six different models of bilingual language acquisition.

  • Model Example #1: Both parents speak a language at home, while a different language is spoken by the child’s school and community. Such parents may have moved from a different country, or simply wish their child to learn a different language than the one spoken at home.
  • Model Example #2: One parent speaks one language exclusively, and the other parent speaks the language of the school and community. In this model, the child would benefit from supplemental help during preschool in the first parent’s language, as they are getting only limited exposure, but would more readily absorb the community language.

The six language models referenced in the article are different variations on this general concept: the child’s preschool education should vary according to where, when, how often, and by whom each language is spoken. However, this research was published back in the 90s and many studies have since developed these models further.

The Two Types of Early Bilingualism

The models of childhood bilingualism mentioned above have also been grouped into two categories by researchers: simultaneous and sequential.

  • Simultaneous bilingualism occurs when a child is exposed to two languages equally, from birth.
  • Sequential bilingualism occurs when a child is introduced to one language after the other, during childhood.

Both are considered to be great methods of bilingual language education. Both methods fall under the category of “early bilingualism”, which means both languages need to be acquired roughy before the age of five, during the normal period of language development.

Children who learn sequentially, or learn their second language after the age of three, but before the age of five, actually learn the second language completely fresh, rather than using their first language for guidance, as older children might. This gives them an advantage since these younger children are less likely to rely on the grammatical patterns of their first language for support. They also tend to have a period of adjustment to the new language during which they may stop speaking in the environments where only the new language is spoken. They may use hand gestures only, until they begin to test out their new language. After that point, they have a high potential of becoming just as competent in their new language as a native speaker.

Understanding How Bilingual Preschool Education Can Help Your Child Learn

Your child is capable of becoming multilingual at a very young age, and speaking each language with the competency of a native speaker, but they are going to need the proper level of exposure, before the age of five. A child won’t become fluent in a new language by watching a foreign language TV show once a week. Their exposure to the new language must be consistent, immersive, and meaningful. Children don’t understand the long-term benefits of language learning, but they do have an innate desire to communicate and be understood. That’s why the new language must be more than a casual activity. It needs to be integrated into a meaningful and consistent environment for the child to truly care about listening and learning.

At Tessa International School, we create an environment where language learning is not just fundamental, but also enjoyable. Contact us today to enroll your young child in an immersive bilingual learning program, and encourage language learning that has already happened at home, or start completely fresh.

Interesting Facts About Childhood Bilingualism That Might Surprise You

by Tori Galatro

Cognitive development in children is a fascinating subject. Children have an incredible ability to absorb information. Parents who expose their children to multiple languages at an early age give their children a unique advantage in their language development. New research is coming out everyday on the subject of cognitive development in children as it relates to bilingualism and multilingualism. Yet there is still so much we don’t know. Below are some recent findings on the subject that may surprise you.

Children “Code Switch” Just Like Adults Do

Jumping between multiple languages in the same sentence or conversation is known as “code switching”. There are many reasons to code switch, and it is a natural part of being bilingual. Code switching can show emphasis, help clarify meaning, or evoke the cultural associations of a particular word. Bilinguals may simply prefer a phrase in one language over its translation in the other. Bilingual children also code switch. Parents of bilingual children often assume this indicates confusion or struggle, when in fact, it’s a natural part of language learning. In some cases, children may use another language to substitute for vocabulary they don’t know. Parents ought to make sure their child knows the correct word in both languages. Other than that, there is nothing to worry about, and code switching is perfectly normal.

Children Have the Unique Ability to Sound like Native Speakers

The term “bilingual” usually describes someone who is conversational in two languages. More than half of the world is said to meet this criteria, but only a small percentage can speak two languages as if they were a native speaker, with native pronunciation. Most people can only achieve this if they start at a very young age, which is why early childhood bilingualism is so fundamental to language learning. It is much easier for a child to learn the phonetic sounds of multiple languages before the age that they become too accustomed to the sounds of only one.

Children Will Follow the Language of the Community

Language dominance is a very common phenomenon among bilinguals. Very few bilingual adults and children speak two languages with exactly the same frequency and skill. Different languages are often used in different contexts, or different spheres. For example, one language may be spoken at home, while a different language may be spoken at school or in the community. It is common for children to gravitate towards the language spoken by their peers, rather than their parents, as they get older and embrace the community language as their dominant language. It is advisable to supplement the non-dominant language with classes and extra conversation.

Children Derive Non-Linguistic Cognitive Benefits from Being Bilingual

Years ago, parents and researchers believed that bilingualism was bad for children and slowed their development. Modern research has repeatedly shown that the opposite is true. Of all of the studies on childhood bilingualism, none have shown any negative effects, and several have shown positive effects, even in areas of the brain not related to language development. Some studies indicate that bilingualism can improve focus, attention, and selectivity. Others indicate that it can improve reading ability in cases where both languages share a common alphabet. Bilingual children may initially have a decreased vocabulary in each language, since less time is spent with each, so the more language, communication, and expression in their lives, the better for their language learning.

 

At Tessa International School, we use proven methods, creating an immersive bilingual learning environment where parents can take advantage of this special time in their children’s lives, helping them to develop their minds while having fun. Contact us today!