How Second Language Learning Changes Children

We are constantly changing as a result of the situations we undergo and the skills we acquire, simply because new experiences put our usual habits into question. This is a process we call learning.

Learning a second language might be a challenging process when we grow older, but comes more naturally to children if they are encouraged to do so early on.

“With languages, you are at home anywhere.” – Edmund De Waal

Let’s dive into how bilingualism/multilingualism benefits and changes young learners.

Why You Should Encourage Second Language Learning in Children:

Children are given a unique perspective on the different ways they can participate in the world when they learn a new language. It has immense benefits, especially at a young age, on a cognitive, cultural, and social level.

On the Cognitive:

Dr. Bialystok Ph.D. and Dr. Poarch Ph.D. established evidence that the on-going use of two (or more) languages advances cognitive behavior in both adults and children. When we speak of an improvement in cognitive behavior, this includes development in a child’s ability to:

  • Quickly and easily absorb information.
  • Solve problems and think critically.
  • Think creatively without inhibitions.
  • Keep focus and attention in an age rampant with technological distractions.
  • Deal with conflict peacefully without fear or avoidance.
  • Easily learn even more languages.

On the Cultural:

Not only does learning a language improve a child’s analytical skills, but also makes them more adaptable to the cultural landscapes of the world. It is an asset to communicate and connect with other people from diverse cultures for many reasons:

  • Keeps children open to and respectful of differences in people and cultures.
  • Gives them the practical skills they need to communicate during emergencies in a foreign country.
  • Provides them with more opportunities to explore different hobbies and better understand music, film, and literature from other cultures.

On the Social:

“If you talk to a person in a language they understand, that goes to their head. If you talk to them in their language, that goes to their heart.” – Nelson Mandela

Scientists and scholars have identified children are natural linguists.  It has been recognized that introducing children to multiple languages helps foster strong bonds with others in and outside their community.  Speaking multiple languages paves the way for students to become more open and flexible which in turn allows them to be able to network in a world which is increasingly globalized, multi ethnic and multicultural.

A few tactical changes this brings to children:

  • The way they communicate is clearer, and they are able to easily understand other people.
  • They have the ability to connect without the barriers that monolingual people face.
  • Studying any language can improve the understanding of their own native language.

On the Whole:

Learning languages influences children in various ways, and allows them to relate to different places, people, and things simultaneously as well as fosters the use of communication. Being bilingual is known to improve a child’s sense of confidence and self-awareness. It is also a sign of intelligence and resourcefulness, which can improve a person’s competitiveness in the employment market and open up new career opportunities. Additionally, people who speak more than one language have improved memory, problem solving as well as critical thinking skills, lowering the risk of brain aging and dementia.

How to better facilitate language learning for children at home:

Early childhood educators understand the importance of acquiring language and how easy it is to build vocabulary from early on.  The inclination towards language is most natural from birth through to the age of six because the child is experiencing a sensitive period for language acquisition.  As they expand their vocabulary and learn to communicate with others they are fulfilling their innate desire to learn and develop. To take this one step further, we’ve outlined a few key methods that can help you facilitate the learning process at home:

  • When your child is learning a new language, ensure you encourage them by participating in the learning journey.
  • The best way to keep them engaged while learning is by associating their learning journey with music, reading, games, and other fun things they genuinely enjoy doing.

You can also ensure that they practice this new language with you in a consistent and focused way, at least for a short period of time during the day.

Doing this, in addition to the education they will receive at a nursery school, will greatly affect a child’s ability to learn a new language. Have a look at our nurseries here, which offer multiple language programs for young children.