This just in: the critical learning period of language fluency has been extended. Experts used to believe that children were more adept at becoming fluent in world languages until the age of 10.
Scientists have since revealed that the age range is much larger, until about 17-18 years old. If you want to turn your child into a polyglot, you have a lot more time to do so.
One of the best ways for a child to learn a language is through language immersion.
Most schools only teach the foreign language for one period a day or week. That's not enough for your child to become fluent.
With partial immersion, your child is getting in contact with the new language for part of the day. With full immersion, your child will be communicating in and learning the new language all day long. Read on to see why language immersion matters!
Why does bilingualism matter?
There are many benefits to bilingualism or multilingualism. The biggest one being that speaking multiple languages opens up many doors that might have been closed before. Your child will have the opportunity to work and live in other countries through their language skills. Bilingualism also has great cognitive benefits, one of which is delaying the onset of Alzheimer's disease. Additionally, bilingualism improves the executive function of the brain. This increases the gray matter in the brain, making the brain healthier overall. If you want your child to have increased opportunities in the future, as well, as a healthier brain while aging, bilingualism is key.
The most common foreign languages studied in the United States are Spanish, French, American Sign Language, and German. Italian, Japanese, and Chinese are the next most popular. Ask your child what they’re interested in learning and get going!
1. Immersion increases language absorption
The great thing about getting your child into a language immersion program earlier on is that they will be immersed in the new language early. This kind of immersion means that they will be reading, speaking, conversing, and studying everything in that particular language.
Even though the critical language period has been extended to 18 years old, the earlier you get your child started in the new language, the more fluent they will end up being.
The goal of language immersion is to get your child completely engaged with a new language — so much so that they are living, breathing, and dreaming in new words, grammar rules, and idioms.
The earlier you get your child started in a language immersion program, the more likely it is that they will be fluent by the time they get into high school or university. This opens up the doors for them to many exchange programs and more.
2. Immersion teachers have more flexibility to teach a child
The challenge with going to a normal preschool or elementary school is that foreign languages take a backseat to a child’s primary language. This means that foreign language instruction is limited to a shorter time amount during a school week.
In a language immersion program, the teacher has more time to work with the students and they can be more flexible with their curriculum. Teachers can use field trips, and TV programs, story writing, and telling, and more to encourage students to adopt a second language.
There are many more methodologies available for a teacher to take advantage of to teach a foreign language in an immersion program. This isn't possible when the teacher only has an hour or two with the foreign language in normal schools.
The more time your child spends with a new language, the more fluent they will become.
Parents can encourage immersion by bringing a new language into their home. Parents can accomplish this by encouraging children to watch television in a foreign language, read books in a new language, teach parents new language skills, or have conversations at the dinner table only in that language.
3. Culture and involvement is raised with a language immersion program
The fascinating thing about learning a new language is that your child will be exposed to an entirely new culture and way of thinking. It's not only about language immersion but about cultural immersion as well.
Immersion opens up your child's horizons impeccably and allows them to experience a wider range of ideas, ideals, and ideologies.
Immersion classes are also a great way to open up your child's eyes to the different ways people live in the world, and make them more a citizen of the world, a global citizen. Not only that, but this will also increase your involvement in the child's language development, as you will have to do their homework with them, and remind them constantly to use the language even at home.
4. Take advantage of the window of language opportunity with children
As a parent, thinking about your child’s future is probably on your mind every day. Bilingualism is a key to opening up more opportunities in a child’s future, whether that’s through introducing them to a new culture, inspiring a love of learning, or unlocking more relationships through language.
If you would like to sign up your child for our language classes in Spanish, French, Mandarin, and German, please check out classes on Sawyer.