Foreign Language Learning at an Early Age

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1- Introduction

It is widely known that the best time to learn a new language is in childhood. Children can learn a foreign language from an early age (beginning at 3-4 years old) by implementing strategies that are designed specifically for children. These strategies introduce different languages through visual and auditory activities, including games, stories, and music. This is why it is always easy to learn a language when still young. However, there are many questions that need to be answered regarding learning languages for kids. At what age can we introduce a second language to kids? How do children learn languages? What are the benefits and disadvantages of learning a language at an early age? How can we enhance language learning for kids using technology?

2- When can kids learn a second language?

As a matter of fact, there are two theories regarding learning a language for kids. The first theory states that very early childhood (The process of learning can start from age 3 or 4 years old) is the best period to acquire a new language, for the more children get older, the more it is hard for them to acquire another language, and speak it fluently. The scholars of this suggestion strengthen their theory with studies concluding that the children’s developing brain is hardwired to learn and acquire a new language. “The young brain”; they state, is inherently flexible and prepared to learn a new language. These studies also suggest that children at an early age have an intense motivation and devotion to learning a new language, the opposite of older kids and adults alike.

The second hypothesis, states contrarily that it is not in benefit for children at an early age to start learning a new language, they might only start learning it at 10 to 12 years old. The scholars of this theory also strengthen their allegation with opposite studies. These studies state that learning a foreign language at a very early age is not efficient, and the process of learning it is slower! However, when kids start learning a language at the age of 10 years old, they use strategies and experiences they have learned before to acquire the new language easily.

Another issue that comes with learning a foreign language at very early childhood is the cultural threat to the children’s identity, which will be explained later on in this article.

3- How should kids learn a new language?

One rule to keep in mind that sums it all up to you! Children should learn a language in a fun interactive way. This will make the process of learning easy for the kids, and the parents together, and will give great results in no time. There are many things parents and teachers could do to make it funny and interactive:

  • Learn through songs.
  • Play word games and puzzles.
  • Watch cartoon.
  • Learn languages through short stories.
  • Try to talk in foreign languages together for 10 or 20 minutes.

These were just some examples, be creative and come up with more ways.

4- Benefits of learning a new language at an early age.

  • Easier and faster to learn: As stated, it is easy and fun for children to learn things, especially languages! This is explained by their flexible brain that can stock words and expressions, and remember them easily. Furthermore, children at an early age give more devotion and time to learning a new language, if the teaching is done the right way.
  • Discovering new cultures and lifestyles: Without a doubt, languages are the wide-open gate for children to discover other cultures, new ways of thinking, and viewing the world. 
  • Enlighten the kid’s mindset: Learning a new language, especially at an early age, will develop the brains, which will affect the way children view the world.
  • Develop Reading skills: The first gate to reading is language. Children with a second language will be able to benefit from other cultural heritages and read some of the
  • worldwide masterpieces in their original languages.

5- Disadvantages of learning a new language at an early age.

  • Risk of native language loss: This is an issue that is likely to happen according to many studies done lately. Children who get involved in learning a foreign language at a very early childhood might struggle at learning the original native language itself.
  • Might threaten the Childs’s identity and culture: Many linguistic and psycholinguistic scholars, state that a kid learning a foreign language before age of 10, is a threat to their identity. This is explained by the fact that language is the pot that holds other cultural ideas and concepts of viewing the world, ideas that might shape children’s minds outside their own identity and culture.
  • More pressure on children: With kids learning many subjects already, it might be a burden to add a foreign language in early childhood. This in some cases might press the kids, and cause distraction towards other subjects, which might end up affecting the child’s education path.

6- Foreign Language Learning for Children in an Online Environment.

Regardless of what hypothesis you take, it is admitted that the new technologies are a wonderful gift. These technologies can help children learn languages faster, and more efficiently. Parents can use apps, websites, music, Visuals (Videos, movies…), Audios, and all kind of interactive means to learning a language in funny loving way.

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