We have already read many articles on how good learning languages is for young children, and now another research has found out that teaching young children to speak a second language is really good for their young minds.
Barbara Lust and Sujin Yang, researchers from the Cornell Language Acquisition Laboratory (CLAL) have found that children who learn a second language can maintain attention despite outside stimuli better than children who know only one language. Many concerns in the past regarding language learning for young children included language confusion, cognitive deficit or language delay were refuted by the research.
Lust, a developmental psychologist has said that learning a second language is important since it is responsible for selective and conscious cognitive process to achieve goals in the face of distraction and plays a key role in academic readiness and success in school settings. Lust says that “Cognitive advantages follow from becoming bilingual and these cognitive advantages can contribute to a child’s future academic success.”
The researchers say that the most effective ways to learn a second language is to put the young children in situations where they are surrounded by the second language. Yang, who is now a postdoctoral fellow at the University of Toronto at Scarborough and at New York University in Toronto, has stated that they found that children learning a second language in an immersion setting show an overall success rate of grammatical knowledge similar to English monolinguals. They have also found that the earlier that a child learns a second language, the more likely the child will quickly achieve native-like language proficiency.
For more than thirty years, Barbara Lust has been exploring language acquisition in young children across more than twenty different languages and cultures, studying which aspects of language acquisition are learned and which are biologically endowed, when and how language acquisition begins, and how multiple language acquisition affects cognitive development in children.
Lust has said that one of the greatest accomplishments of human development is learning a language. Children are remarkable for being well equipped since birth to accomplish the complex task of learning language. For five years, Lust has been studying the effects of bilingualism in young children with Yang who led a series of studies with children aged from three to six and comparison to adults. The two researchers have already co-authored several papers.
The researchers’ collection of multilingualism projects together with many researches from other laboratories across the world affirms that children can learn more than one language and they will even do so naturally if surrounded by the languages.
Lust, Yang, the CLAL and VCLA (Virtual Center for the study of Language Acquisition) are also looking at longitudinal case studies of several young children acquiring English for the first time at three years of age through immersion in local nursery schools.
Here are some shared tips on how to teach a child a second language:
• Surround the child with more than one language through conversations and social groups using different languages; the earlier you expose children to languages, the better
• Keep home or heritage language when a second language is being learned outside the home
• Promote reading and storytelling in multiple languages
• Expose children to multilingual settings and give them many opportunities to play with children who speak the second language that they are learning
• Present children with fun and interactive language learning atmospheres in both language and often with children of similar age (music, film, dance)
• Maintain a positive attitude toward languages and cultures that children learn.