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Is There a Right Age to Start Learning Foreign Languages

When to start studying another language.

Learning a foreign language is nowadays not a tribute to fashion anymore, but a vital necessity for many people. That’s why the question when it’s best to start second language learning is a hot issue at present days. It should be noted that much effort, time, and means were spent to study the problem, the results are, nevertheless, very inconclusive and even controversial at times.

Still, the individuals who have mastered the foreign language before they reached 15 are much more likely to get a ‘native-like’ fluency of it.  It should be kept in mind that at an early age babies have an innate ability to acquire grammar rules, while this capacity disappears by adulthood.

Generally speaking, the younger the mind is, the easier it is to absorb a foreign language or a couple of them.  Those kids, who start learning an additional language, demonstrate more creativity, better ability in solving complex problems and higher results in the standard tests. Besides, learning a second language as a child one may gain a better understanding of other cultures and people mentality from the very young age.

Best age to learn a language

Is earlier really better? Babies have their minds in the process of structuring and development, which goes in accordance with the stimulus of the outer world. Besides, the younger the learners are, the better they can imitate new sounds and take on the pronunciation. Even though the young mind is often compared to a sponge absorbing everything, it’s strongly recommended to provide enough time for the kid to acquire and understand mother tongue in full before introducing another language. Experts agree that mastering a foreign language is much more effective in pre-teen. The reasons might be variable more years devoted to studying, more time for practicing, more experience in English or some other language through TV, Mass Media and Internet.

As it was already mentioned, the pupils learning additional language show better results in their verb and math tests compared to their monolingual classmates.  Harvard University studies revealed that the process of foreign languages learning positively influences the creativity, the flexibility of mind and critical thinking skills. Mental muscle is trained and strengthened with constant exercising. It includes memorizing rules as well as enriching the vocabulary.

In fact, it is impossible to single out the age from supplementary factors, which matter for mastering a language effectively. The learning environment, students’ motivation and the quality of teaching belong here.

The five benefits of a foreign language for children

  1. Better Vocabulary.

Early foreign language start results in better fluency often without any accent coming easily, and rapidly. The capacity to recognize and imitate new sounds is lost between 8 and 12, and it makes the new language acquisition much more difficult after this age.

  1. Cognitive skills development.

Learning a language is not purely a linguistic process, but actually a more cognitive one. It helps to develop better multi-tasking, critical thinking, and problem-solving skills along with other important features.

  1. Better academic results

The development of cognitive skills mentioned above leads to better educational performance and results in other subject tests.

  1. Cultural enrichment.

With a foreign language, a kid is able to open the doors, which would otherwise be closed for him. Bilingual students can use the resources, spaces, persons, and information the others cannot.  The learners are provided with the deeper understanding of different cultures, learning enriches their life and experience, more than that it offers them superior working opportunities in the future.

  1. Social Contributions.

Knowing more than one language you can promote cultural diversity and international values worldwide. With a foreign language, any professional can become more effective by having an ability to reach across nations and cultures.

Ways to learn a second language for youngsters.

There are 2 main ways a foreign language for children: simultaneous or sequential.

Learning simultaneously occurs, when babies under three years are exposed to 2 languages at a time. They may have parents speaking 2 different languages or hear one from the parents and another one from their educators or caregivers.

Throughout the first 6 months of their lives such babies learn both languages at the same rate, actually 2 separate language systems are built in their brain and it allows then not to be confused with the languages. At six month babies start noticing differences in speech and may start to give preference to the language they hear more. That’s why the parents, who want a bilingual child should be cautious to offer equal amounts of contact with both languages.

Learning sequentially means getting first familiar with the native speech and then introducing to another one. The most usual illustration of such approach is the case when a non-English speaking pupil joins an English-dominant class, where he faces teaching in English, English communication and English homework help.

There are 4 stages of such learning. Initially, the child still tries to use his mother tongue even if others fail to understand him. Several days later he proceeds to the nest silent period when he avoids speaking in favor of nonverbal communicative means. The silent period is often longer for younger learners. The third stage stands for the period of telegraphic and formulaic speech when a kid only uses small phrases or repeats after the others. The final productive stage starts when a kid gets ready to express his ideas and builds full sentences, though still sometimes short or not very correct from the grammar point of view. It improves in course of the time.

If you notice the signs of such behavior with your child, don’t be afraid or nervous, keep in mind – parents play a decisive role in their infants’ development. Such dual language growth demands conscious effort and support of the family in the first turn and educators in the second. Support your children for their better and brighter future.

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