3 brilliant benefits of learning a second language as a child
20th April 2022
The best age to be exposed to a new language is (drumroll please) as early as possible!
Why as early as possible?
To start with, 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 at an early age helps children form a connection to the world.
It’s lucky then that we live in beautiful multicultural Australia. People from all sorts of cultural backgrounds have made Australia home and contributed to making it a great place to live.
Our 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 new cultures, and encourage families to share their home languages.
One question we get a lot at Guardian 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 helps the development of a child’s first language.
3 Benefits For a Child Learning a Second Language
- 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!
- 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.
- Understanding & Respecting Different Cultures: Children will develop a deeper understanding and respect for different cultures and traditions by learning a foreign 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!
Why ELLA at Guardian?
Guardian has invested in specialist ELLA champions in its centres to support the program’s implementation at centres where ELLA is delivered.
We also believe in play-based learning, and play is one of the best ways to learn a second language.
LANGUAGE OF THE HEART AT HOMEBUSH
Guardian Homebush has been using the ELLA program to support children exploring and learning Mandarin. In addition to learning Mandarin via the ELLA apps, the children have opportunities to interact with peers in Mandarin. They also learn to recognise the Chinese number characters by playing board games. Inspired by the resources in the ELLA, the Homebush Team set up board games for the apps, At the Zoo, At the Circus, and At the Park to boost the children’s interest in the language.
BUONGIORNO, GUARDIAN LAURIMAR!
The Pizza Café is a hit with children at Guardian Laurimar as they combine food and culture in their Italian ELLA program. The children rolled up their sleeves to make their pizzas, and they even created their pizza shop featuring the Centre’s outdoor pizza oven. Side note, Guardian Laurimar can expect some visitors now we know they have a pizza oven! The activity complemented the learning in the Ella app, making fun and rich experience for the children.
Want more information? We recommend reaching out to your Centre and talking to your friendly Centre manager for more information about what books they’re reading, which stories and songs your child is most responsive to during the day or why not just have a chat about how beautiful children’s books are.
Not enrolled at a Guardian Centre? Reach out and book a tour today.
Guardian Childcare & Education Mt Eliza and their Spanish experience
Educator, Sara, is championing the initiative, which is a digital, play-based language learning program delivered through iPads and additional resources.
“I was actually working in the pre-kinder room when the children first started the ELLA program,” says Sara.
“As the Educators teaching it didn’t speak the language, they approached to take over as I am from Spain, and I was excited for the opportunity to share my culture and background with the children.”
“I really enjoy teaching the children my language, and I think it’s very important to help them understand that there’s other languages and cultures out there for them to explore.”
“The children really enjoy playing the ELLA games and then repeating the words they’ve just learnt.”
“They find it very interesting and are excited to participate, often asking me throughout the week when it’s time for their next Spanish lesson.”
“Outside of our lessons, I share information about Spain with the children, and in turn they ask how we say certain things, and request words they want to learn next.”
“I love that the children are learning, understanding and enjoying a second, or third, language at the Centre. Having this foundation will serve them well later in life, and hopefully instill a lifelong love of learning and exploring.”
What are the benefits, advantages and disadvantages of learning a second language?
As we mentioned earlier, there are many advantages to learning a foreign language at an early age. 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 family history is that it deepens their connection to one another, their extended family, and their heritage.
Bilingual children are able to better and 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 can play a massive part in a child’s development and understanding of self and 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.
We respond to this concern with a simple answer: children can indeed tell the difference between two languages. We’re excited to tell you that learning a new language is helpful for your child. As we mentioned earlier, as children learn another language, their brains will strengthen their memory for sequences and structure. When this happens, it builds more robust pathways to concentrate and develop connections for information retention and recall.
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 truly endless, and there are things you can do at home, both long and short term, which help support this skill to grow.
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 practise and even do lessons 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 practise your child’s second language. Take a walk together and see how many things outside you can name. You could even make a game of Bingo out of this experience.
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 practise speaking their new language in front of others and, just as necessary, be exposed to others speaking that language.
Sing out loud
Just like singing is a great way to help your child become a reader from birth, it’s a brilliant way to help your child learn a second language. Singing is a fun way to help your child learn and remember words and sentence structure in a second (and first) language – so there is no downside to belting out a tune or a nursery rhyme or two together.
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