Early language learning is a topic that has quite some public attention for a while. Today, as communication with the world seems like being on the palm of your hand, the emphasis on learning foreign languages is even more evident. For that reason, it is already quite casual to have a child enrolled in some kind of “language happy hours or activities”. Is that a good decision or we are only putting more burden on our kids?
There are evidence that children are learning languages more easily when compared to adults. Looking from the geographical point of view, on the boarder areas most of the children speak mother tongue and the language of the neighboring country, even before starting the formal education in school. Aldo children that are growing up in bilingual families, learn two languages practically simultaneously and effortless.
Children are born with a gift for early language learning: learning a mother tongue as well as additional languages is a organic process, while in older children as well as adults learning languages is a conscious process. Research shows that best time gap for early language learning is between 5 and 9 years of age, while brain is still developing and all information are being absorbed as primal. It is often said that children brain is like “sponge” which simply absorbs the information and knowledge from the environment, which specially applies for languages. If the early language learning is set well, children will learn the foreign language extremely fast and it’s knowledge will be even more long-term than in adults.
At the same time, early language learning has a positive effect on development of child’s cognitive functions and communication skills. It also encourages flexible thinking, strengthens memory and the ability to focus. It has been proved, that multilingual children use more brain tissue and are very creative.
European Union is aware of the benefits that early language learning brings. Aside from other benefits, it makes the base for later learning and shapes one’s relation to other languages and cultures. Because of that EU Ministers of Formal Education are supporting learning of at least two foreign languages in the childhood. Early language learning will be implemented in the common strategy of European Commission for early education.
Looking on a long-term run, every child that speaks more languages will have numerous benefits in comparison to it’s peers, who did not train their brains with early language learning.
What kind of early foreign language learning is best?
The method applied or early language learning must be adequate to the age of the child. But the choice of the method depends on our goals. If we desire that our child learns language very well than a systematic approach is needed. It must attract child’s attention and keep it with interesting activities: games, visual and hearing materials, integrated movement and singing. At home we can encourage early language learning with reading multilingual books, using multilingual mobile apps or with watching cartoons in a foreign language.
Early language learning should always be in accordance with child’s development and it must be of high quality. The learning process must be fun and easy, and should never feel like a “burden”. While learning in a fun and engaging way the child will be successful in concurring a new language as well as in other talents that are being develop at the same time.