We’ve said it before and we’ll say it again: it’s never too late to start learning a new language. Becoming a polyglot offers social and cognitive benefits at any stage of life, whether you’re in high school, at the peak of your professional career, or recently retired. That being said, there is certainly an ideal time to begin a new language — when the brain most easily absorbs new sounds and patterns — and all this happens during a child’s K-8 years. Here are a few of the many advantages of starting them out young.
They’ll be more fluent later on in life.
Young kids’ minds are constructed and developed on a daily basis according to the stimuli they receive from their environment. Because their cognitive abilities are just beginning to take form, everything they learn is absorbed in a much more natural way - that is, they don’t have to try to learn their native language, it just happens (we certainly can’t remember learning the ins and outs of English grammar as toddlers).
Not only can young kids internalize grammar rules that prove tougher for adults to learn, but they are also more likely to master native-like pronunciation. Without the early exposure to different sounds, many adults who tackle a second language later on in life have a particularly difficult time with the accent. In fact, kids already begin to lose their sound reproduction abilities by the time they are 8-12 years old. Introducing even a few foreign vocabulary words to your youngster can increase the chance of them becoming fully fluent as an adult.
They develop cultural awareness.
As we all know, learning a foreign language opens up possibilities that go far beyond holding a simple conversation. You can spend time in countries where your second (or third) language is spoken, form friendships with diverse groups of people, and gain more knowledge about important cultural traditions. The takeaway here is that kids who are exposed to another language at a young age develop an interest in all of this. They’ll form an appreciation for a world much larger than their backyard, resulting in an open mind and an enhanced curiosity that will stay with them as they get older.
A helpful tip for incorporating foreign words into your child’s vocabulary is to read them their favorite books in another language. Instead of reaching for the English version of the all-time classic Good Night Moon or Shel Silverstein’s The Giving Tree, try them out in Spanish or French. Your kids will thank you one day!
They score higher on standardized tests.
Better problem solving skills, higher levels of creativity, and increased memory are just a few of the cognitive benefits that bilingual children enjoy. Learning multiple languages helps train their young brains to focus on the most important information and disregard what isn’t relevant. This advantage can go a long way for them academically, not to mention when it comes time to take the dreaded ACT and SAT tests for college. Yes, language skills certainly help with the critical reading and writing sections, but your bilingual child will most likely have an easier time tackling math as well. The stats don’t lie: introducing a second language at a young age directly correlates with both higher academic achievement and increased standardized test scores.
Better (and more varied) job prospects.
It’s a good time to be a polyglot. More than ever before, companies are seeking out candidates with foreign language skills over those that speak only their native language. Providing that early exposure can mean that your child has access to a much wider variety of professional opportunities later on, both domestic and international. Or, they might just grow up to be Mango’s next language analyst - the possibilities are truly endless!
Whether you’re a parent considering a bilingual education for your child, or someone simply interested in the benefits of an early introduction to language, we hope this blog provided some insight. Know a great strategy for encouraging K-8 language learners? Let us know in the comments!