Guardian Childcare & Education

3 brilliant benefits of learning a second language as a child

20th September 2022

The best age to be exposed to a new language is (drumroll please)… as early as possible!

Child laughing with educator at Flinders Street

Why as early as possible?

Learning about language and communication begins at birth. In fact, by the age of one, children have learnt all the sounds that make up their native language.

Being exposed to another language from an early age helps children form a connection to their world.

It’s lucky that we live in such a beautiful, multicultural country. People from a diverse range of cultural backgrounds have made Australia home and contributed to making it such a great place to live.

One question we are often asked is, will learning a second language too early hurt the development of my child’s first language?

You’ll be happy to hear that learning a second language actually helps in the development of a child’s first language!

Benefits For a Child Learning a Second Language

  1. Improving English Literacy: When children learn another language, they use different ‘systems’ within the brain. As they begin to understand what other words mean, they compare and contrast the systems and structure of the new language they are learning with English. This will ultimately provide the child insight into how English works, enhancing their ability to read and write.
  2. Improving Cognitive Concentration: As children begin to learn another language, their brain will strengthen their memory for sequences and structure. This builds more robust pathways to concentrate and build connections for information retention and recall.
  3. Understanding & Respecting Different Cultures: Children will develop a deeper understanding and respect for different cultures and traditions by learning another language. These valuable life skills will create a more profound sense of character and social awareness in your child, shaping them into becoming global and multicultural citizens of the future!

What are the advantages of learning a second language? 

When we’re asked why a child should learn a second language, we explain that a significant advantage for many families in learning a language connected to their history, is that it deepens their connection to one another, their extended family, and their heritage. 

Bilingual children are able to more confidently communicate with family members who might not be fluent in English. It also means that children can hear stories about family history and heritage from an early age. Hearing these stories first-hand plays an important part in a child’s development and understanding of self-identity. 

Why children should start learning a second language before primary school

Some parents have raised concerns that learning a second language at a young age is too much. They’re asking if children can even distinguish between two languages when they haven’t mastered their first language yet. 

While learning to communicate, bilingual children can sometimes start a sentence in one language and finish it in another. This is not anything families should worry about as the child grows out of this as their communication skills develop. Children exposed to more than one language from birth become fluent speakers of all their languages.

The benefits of learning a second language are endless, and there are things you can do at home which help support this skill. 

How to help your child absorb their second language at home

Do it together

If you are not already a native speaker of the language your child is learning, why not commit to learning it along with them? You can practice together.

Make it fun at home

Use the second language your child is learning to play games, read books, cook food and other experiences that really immerse you both in the culture and learn about the language in action. 

Get out and about

There are a lot of places that you can go together where you can both practice your child’s second language. Take a walk together and see how many things outside you can name. 

Meet up with others who are learning the same language

If you aren’t fluent in your child’s second language, talk to friends and family who are. Even if you are fluent, it’s a tremendous confidence-building experience for your child to speak their new language in front of others and be exposed to others speaking it. 

Sing out loud

Just like singing is a great way to help your child become a reader from birth, it’s also a brilliant way to help your child learn a second language. Singing is a fun way to learn and remember words and sentence structure in a second (and first!) language – so there is no downside to belting out a nursery rhyme or two together!

ELLA at Guardian

Guardian Centres introduce children to new languages through Early Learning Languages Australia (ELLA). ELLA is a government-supported initiative that we teach in our Kindergarten and Preschool programs. By taking part in the program, children learn about the diversity of cultures, and encourage families to share their home languages.

Our specialist ELLA champions support the program’s implementation at Centres where ELLA is delivered.

 

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