How Early Must Foreign Language Learning Begin?

Language learning is one skill that will never get out of demand.

The more languages you know the more stars you have. However, one thing that still remains a matter of concern is that how early it must be introduced to kids. Child psychology says that from birth up to the age of five, children develop language at a very rapid pace. The stages of language development are universal among humans. However, the age and the pace at which a child reaches each milestone of language development vary greatly among children. Thus, language development in an individual child must be compared with norms rather than with other individual children.

Another article mentions of the amazing benefits of learning another language from a young age. It states, “There are incredible psychological benefits of learning another language. Longitudinal studies by Harvard University confirm that learning additional languages increases critical thinking skills, creativity and flexibility of the mind in young children. Pupils who learn a foreign language outscore their non-foreign language learning peers in verbal and math standardized tests, indicating that learning additional language is a cognitive activity not just a linguistic one. The brain, like any muscle, functions better with exercise. Learning a language involves memorizing rules and vocabulary, which helps strengthen that mental muscle.”

After researching all the way it is confirmed that the ideal age to start learning foreign language is 3 or 4. Backed by a study from Harvard University it is confirmed that the creativity, critical thinking skills, and flexibility of the mind are significantly enhanced if children learn a second language at a younger age. Preschool years, especially the first three years of life, are believed to be a vital period in a child’s life. This is when the foundations for attitudes, thinking, and learning, among others, are laid down.

This implies that children have a natural ability to learn, which is developed during the first 3-4 years of their life. Using this ability is much encouraged because it is said that learning a second language is as easy as learning the first. It may sound like a piling a burden on the kid but, in fact, it’s not. Inversely, it is helpful for kids to start learning another language from the early age as it helps them with developing other essential skills such as creativity, critical thinking and multitasking. It naturally makes a kid more attentive and receptive.    

Few reasons that support the idea of introducing kids to a second language as early as possible are stated below:

- It is known to us that it becomes harder to pick foreign languages with native like pronunciation. Hence, children who learn a language when they are very young have a much better chance of not having a “foreign” accent when speaking another language.  Exposing a child to a foreign language at an early age (as early as 3 years old) will result in much easier and better fluency than if they learn later in life. Children’s brains are developmentally ready to accept and learn a foreign language, and fluency comes fairly easily, rapidly, and without accent.

- Research shows that language learning is more cognitive than linguistic. Here are just a few of the cognitive benefits to learning a foreign language:

  •         The concept of “object permanence” develops at a younger age
  •         Better problem solving skills
  •         better critical thinking skills
  •         More creativity
  •         Better flexibility of mind
  •         Enhanced memory
  •         Better multi-tasking abilities

- Starting children early with language learning gives them this “leg up” that will help them succeed in mastering a language. Plus, using more than one language over a lifetime is the key behind the cognitive benefits of bilingualism that research has shown.

- Young children enjoy learning. They don’t care if an activity will improve their cognitive ability or motor skills. They just want to jump in and have a great time doing it. This same approach is true for children learning a new language.

-  Introducing children to languages when they are young helps them accept the fact that bilingualism and multilingualism are normal in our world. Speaking more than one language shouldn’t be treated as something out of the ordinary. It is simply an element of belonging to our global society.

All in all it’s good to be multilingual as Federico Fellini said “A different language is a different vision of life” and its better late than never. So if you’re reading this and your kid is probably engaged somewhere else, consider introducing your child to another language.

What’s your take on language learning for kids? Share with us in the comment section below.   

About the Author
Author: Priyanka Gupta
Priyanka is a blogger by profession and has an increasing interest to write about the edtech space. While writing she keeps in mind the educators to come up with right resources and ideas which might be relevant for them in relation to effective use of technology in their profession and institutions/classrooms.
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