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When it comes to deciding whether or not their child is too young to learn a second language, parents are divided. For many new parents, it is important to not push their child too hard academically, especially in the early formative years. Parents want to encourage creativity in play and imagination, while protecting their children from what they believe is the inevitable rigidness of the world to come. With this parenting philosophy in mind, the idea of introducing a foreign language at a young age is quickly decided against.
Many other things can also influence that decision. Parents themselves [no comma needed] might not ever have fully learned a second language in school. They may have horrible memories of classes full of inflexible/stringent [because ‘rigid’ was used in preceding paragraph] grammar rules, memorization, and poor grades. To this day they may hear themselves saying, “Oh, I was never any good at languages.” This can contribute to their wanting to protect their children from those challenges and those remembered feelings of incompetence.
Today, we know so much more about how languages are best learned and how to more effectively get a child not only functional, but even fluent in a second language before they reach adolescence. If children acquire a new language the same way they acquired their first language, they can use it quicker and will thus have more success.
Parents should also know that children learn languages easier than adults. Children’s brains are wired to take in useful language data at all moments. This is why parents that should put their own fears aside and reconsider giving their children the opportunity to acquire a second language. Not only will the children learn with ease and less frustration, but they will increase brain function, be stronger students, and be better prepared for the global job market of tomorrow, but more importantly they will be more well-rounded world citizens.
So what should you look for in a children’s foreign language program? A child’s foreign language class should be filled with fun, laughter, movement games and meaningful language building activities. Full immersion programs are best, followed by programs that use the target language 80% of the time but use 100% immersion language teaching techniques. So go ahead — do your research and find a foreign language program that is right for your family. Get excited about it, and your child will as well. And trust me: with the right program, they won’t even know they are “learning”!