Is learning a second language good for children?
In general terms, the younger someone's mind is, the easier it is to learn a second or even a third language.
Whether you use a native second language in the home or you're thinking about teaching your children another language, it can be helpful to think about the benefits that gaining this skill might bring to your kids in the future:
Career-wise, professionals able to communicate in a second or third language are often at an advantage since they can embrace additional responsibilities and job opportunities.
In this sense, you may want to think about languages that could be more useful to know in the future. For instance, English is nowadays the main language for business at a global level, which is why families all around the world are prioritising English as one of the best languages to learn. In addition, languages such as Chinese-Mandarin, Spanish and Portuguese are popular as business-skilled languages.
Studies suggest that at a cognitive and academic level, children learning an additional language are more creative, better at solving complex problems and usually score higher on standardised tests. Once children know a second language, both written and verbal, it is easier for them to understand further language structures, which is why experts say that every new language learned is easier than the one before.
At a personal level, the more languages a person speaks, the better access he or she will have to different people and resources from other countries and cultures. Additionally, it helps children to better understand other cultures, expressions and styles of communication. This can encourage children to appreciate how big the world is and will open their minds greatly - which is always a good thing.
Finally, children that are advanced or fluent in a second language will feel especially satisfied when practising it abroad. Discovering that they are able to communicate with people in their native language will boost their self-esteem, autonomy and confidence.
The younger, the better?
Learning a new language involves an obvious amount of effort for anyone, either a child or an adult. But the younger you are, the easier it is - after all, do you remember learning to speak your own native language?
Children go through a ‘critical period’, believed to occur from the age of two until seven, where there is rapid neural formation. A two-year-old, for example, has twice as many brain connections (‘synapses’) as an adult.
Experts say that children who learn a language before their teenage years are more likely than older learners to achieve native-like pronunciation. Furthermore, research has found that kids have an innate ability to acquire the rules of any language - an ability that disappears by adulthood.
Although children's minds are known for being "like a sponge" which absorbs everything, you may wish to consider giving them enough time to acquire and fully understand one language before introducing another one. Consider their preferences in using language, especially if there are two languages used at home. It might become tricky to fully express themselves in both languages.
If you're planning on introducing multiple languages at the same time, you must consider whether you have sufficient resources available and whether you'll be able to provide your child with enough exposure to the new languages to enable them to become fluent.
Anyhow, it goes without saying that the more years committed to learning a language and the more use of it made, the greater the proficiency that will be achieved!