Experts agree that introducing children to foreign languages should begin as early as possible. The earlier, the better!
Teaching young children foreign languages a huge topic and one that many daycare providers or those that own childcare centers debate. In our interview with Myelita Melton, CEO of SpeakEasy Communications, Inc, and author of the SpeakEasy Spanish™ series, Melton explains the importance of teaching foreign language to young children.
OwnADaycare: What is an appropriate age to begin learning foreign languages?
Melton: Experts agree that introducing children to second and third languages as early as possible is best. The earlier a child is exposed to another language the greater the likelihood that the child will become truly proficient in the language. Some suggest that waiting until age 10 or later is too late to develop true fluency.
OwnADaycare: What are the benefits of learning foreign languages at an early age (infants, toddlers, preschoolers)?
Melton: The benefits of learning foreign languages at an early age are numerous:
- Children develop a life-long love of communicating with others
- Standardized test scores are often higher than for those of children who do not learn second languages
- Children develop a greater appreciation for diversity.
- A child’s ability in English is enhanced from learning about the structure of other languages.
- Children have the capacity to learn many languages without getting them confused. The body automatically compartmentalizes each language correctly.
- Children will achieve a more native grasp of both grammar and pronunciation in the second language.
- Since we live in a global community that’s filled with diversity, the need for a child to have second language capability is greater today than ever before.
- Bilingual skills are in great demand in the job market
OwnADaycare: What are some of the myths about exposing young children to foreign languages?
Melton: Common myths about exposing children to languages are:
- A child’s short attention span prohibits second language learning
- A child must be able to read and write in English before beginning second language study
- A child must be totally immersed in the language in order to begin learning a second language
OwnADaycare: Are there benefits to being bilingual when you are learning to read?
Melton: By being exposed to foreign languages a child can more easily see vocabulary and grammatical structures that the English and the other language have in common. Seeing commonalities in vocabulary helps a child learn new words more easily.
OwnADaycare: Can you describe how a full immersion daycare or preschool program works?
Melton: During language immersion programs children spend all or a large portion of their day learning in a foreign language. The foreign language is used to teach in all other subject areas. It is not a separate subject area.
OwnADaycare: What are the advantages of a full immersion daycare or preschool program? Any disadvantages?
Melton: Children in total immersion programs work toward total fluency in the foreign language. They are more likely to “think” and function naturally in the language. Normally, they are able to achieve an extremely high level of overall competency, and they hold speakers of that language in high regard. In addition, their skills in English flourish.
OwnADaycare: What are some tips for daycare provider and preschool teachers who wish to begin incorporating foreign language learning into their curriculum?
- Determine the long and short-term goals for your language immersion program
- Purchase age and subject appropriate materials
- Hire qualified instructors
- Get the support of parents
- Offer frequent staff development opportunities and planning time
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