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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.

Language Spotlight Series: French - Boosting Your Child's Future Opportunities

Language Spotlight Series: French – Boosting Your Child’s Future Opportunities

For the final segment of our Language Spotlight Series, we are taking a look at the benefits of choosing French as a bilingual study program for early education. While we’ve thoroughly covered the immense benefits of bilingual learning in previous sections of the series, for this portion we will be focused solely on the advantages of introducing your little one to French.

If you’re considering enrolling your child into French lessons, you’re not alone. With over 220 million French-speaking individuals across the globe (according to diplomatic policy resources), it’s quite evident that French is much more than just a beautiful romance language.

Spotlight on French

Diplomatie.gouv.fr states France is “the world’s fifth biggest economy and a leading destination for foreign investment.” As such, learning the language of such an economic powerhouse is certainly a valuable skill to acquire – but that’s just the tip of the iceberg. Here is a look at five of the most important benefits to adding French to your child’s educational curriculum:

1 – French Economic Investment

As mentioned previously, France is a major player in world economic development and investment as well as endless other areas. You may think of France as a place for delicious food and romance, (and you’d be right, for sure), but it’s much more than that. The companies and interests rooted in French industry are major players in the world economic picture, so it goes without saying that learning the language is a huge plus for future economic opportunities.

2 – Rich Cultural Experience

If you’re looking for your child to gain more than simply a linguistic advantage, few languages open more cultural doors than French. French culture is deeply rooted in the arts, cooking, and theater – all of which offer immensely enriching experiences for those who open themselves to it.

“French is the international language of cooking, fashion, theater, the visual arts, dance and architecture. A knowledge of French offers access to great works of literature in the original French, as well as films and songs.” – Diplomatie.gouv.fr.

3 – It Opens Doors Linguistically

Another major benefit of studying French is the linguistic similarities it shares with other languages. While it’s certainly not an exact translation, there are many benefits to picking up the similarities between English and French. In other words, learning how the two languages have developed and share certain key components helps to understand other languages even more. In short, by picking up French, it helps students learn even more languages later in life with ease due to the ability to recognize those base components and transfer them to other cultures.

“The knowledge you gain about your own language equips you with a plethora of tools you can use to learn further languages, and if you choose to learn another romance language – Portuguese, Spanish or Italian, for example – then you’ll recognize a host of grammatical and lexical similarities.” – Babbel.com.

4 – International Connections

The United Nations recognizes French as both a “working language and an official language” (diplomatie.gouv.fr). As such, its presence can be found worldwide in organizations such as the Red Cross, the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO), global embassies, and even the Olympic committee. What does this mean for your child? Well, it means it’s opening up a world of fascinating opportunities in practically every avenue of adult life.

5 – The World’s Top Travel Destination

It’s hard to consider French language and culture without considering the immense travel and tourism attached to it. According to French statistics, “France is the world’s top tourist destination and attracts more than 87 million visitors a year” (diplomatie.gouv.fr).

By introducing French to your child, you’re opening doors to not only economic and career opportunities, but opportunities for travel, higher education, and culture as well. Speak with educators to discover even more benefits to adding French to your child’s curriculum!

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!