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Our Favourite Reasons for Teaching Children Foreign Languages

As employers stress the importance of multilingualism, it's time to consider teaching children foreign languages at an early age

 

Learning a foreign language is becoming a more prominent topic on the early years agenda, as nurseries, childminders and primary schools are beginning to realise the huge benefits it can bring.

This has been reflected by England's 2014 curriculum modification that saw the introduction of a second language in primary school, and by Scotland's one plus two approach to learning languages.

Kidslingo is a national children's language organisation that teaches French and Spanish to over 8,000 nursery, preschool and primary school children. It inspires kids to love languages through songs, games, Makaton, role play and storytelling. Here, language expert and Kidslingo CEO, Anna Neville, delves into why learning a second language as a child is so beneficial.

There are numerous benefits to learning a second language, and children take to it much more quickly than you might expect

 

Children have an innate ability


Children's brains have far greater plasticity, which means new pathways can be created at an exponential rate. As we age, this amazing ability diminishes and the learning process takes more time and effort. Even babies who simply hear another language can grow these new pathways and begin to understand different language systems. This helps them to problem solve, which is an essential life skill. Studies have shown clear structural improvements in the brains of bilingual people, as well as demonstrating that learning a second language can stimulate the growth of grey matter. Therefore, starting kids off with languages from an early age can give them an enormous advantage.

Learning how language works

When a child learns a second language, they indirectly absorb the mechanics of language. This makes them better at grasping the quirks of English grammar, improves their listening skills and makes them more effective communicators. In language classes, the basics such as counting, greetings, emotions and colours are all practised in English before being learnt in French and Spanish.

Increasing cultural intelligence

In a multicultural society, it is very important for children to learn about other countries, cultures and traditions. Learning a foreign language can provide the perfect backdrop for exploring these things and can help children act appropriately in culturally diverse situations. It also encourages them to explore the world around them, rather than just see things from their own perspective.

Taking an inclusive approach

We find that a key benefit of teaching a language at a very young age is its inclusivity. We find that despite ability, all children take away something positive from the learning something new. Whether they're verbal, non-verbal, SEND, or speak English as a second language, they all share the common experience of learning something new together.

Using tools to enhance the learning experience

Learning a second language can give children the confidence to express themselves and practise new sounds and words. Using a mixture of tactics to achieve this, we find tools like music, stories, Makaton and visual cues are beneficial in helping children learn more effectively and listen more attentively.

Music is a very important part of our culture and can be particularly useful in getting to grips with a new vocabulary. It doesn't just enhance memory recall, but also helps set musical patterns that the child hears but does not yet understand. Consequently, this helps develop the child's listening skills and helps them to form language.

Stories are another invaluable tool for learning another language thanks to their accessibility and the sharing of common experiences. They convey human themes and topics, irrespective of the language they are written in. This is the whole ethos behind brands like One Third Stories, who teach the gradual introduction of new languages through story books.

With so many educational and life benefits, it's easy to see why foreign languages are becoming a key part of early years education. If you'd like more information on Kidslingo visit www.kidslingo.co.uk.

 
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