Tips for Parents
Six Tips for Ensuring Second Language Learning Success for Kids
Learning a second language in early childhood offers a lifetime of benefits for a child. Research shows that learning a second language at an early age has positive effects on a child’s intellectual growth and cognitive development. It sharpens a child’s overall literacy skills and helps the child develop a greater sensitivity to language, a better ear for listening, and a stronger appreciation for other cultures.
To ensure early second language learning success, parents and teachers should:
- Expose children to a second language early when the brain is most receptive to language development. Research shows that a critical “window of opportunity” for language learning occurs in early childhood. During this period, children can learn a second language just as naturally as their first and with native-like fluency.
- Skip the translation! While parents may be tempted to translate words into and out of English when teaching a second language, translation can actually delay a child’s acquisition of a second language. Skipping the translation stage is the key to fluency. Children can achieve fluency more quickly and more permanently by learning words directly from images and context.
- Teach children a second language using “immersion.” Leading language experts have demonstrated that complete immersion in the second language (i.e. speaking and hearing only the second language for a period of time) is the most efficient and effective way to get children thinking and speaking a second language.
- Expose children to a second language as spoken by native speakers. Children who are exposed early to a second language can develop a native-like fluency that adults and older children can never match. Parents who are not native speakers themselves can expose their children to the sounds of a native speaker through language classes, videos, and CDs.
- Repetition is the key to language learning. Children need to be exposed to words repeatedly to gain mastery of them. Ideally, children should be exposed to similar words in different contexts (e.g. through songs, skits, poems, and stories) to build and reinforce the vocabulary.
- Offer an immersion program that is compelling and kid-friendly! Whether introduced in the classroom, at home, or on video, a good language program should be able to entertain and educate young learners with themes, songs, stories and characters that are uniquely appealing to children. Captivating children’s interest is essential to creating an environment that promotes an enjoyable and effective learning experience for children.