Learning a foreign language – The younger the better! - Mums NI - A Hub For Parents in Northern Ireland

Learning a foreign language – The younger the better!

Marie Louise McKendry
Written by Marie Louise McKendry on Saturday, 01 July 2017 Posted in: Your Kids Education

Learning a foreign language – The younger the better!

We have a poor reputation with regards to learning foreign languages in our little corner of Europe. In contrast bilingualism is the norm in many parts of the continent, in fact most European countries require children to start learning a foreign language by the age of six.With Brexit on the horizon English will no longer be an official language of the European Union and learning a second (or third) language will be more important than ever.

I didn’t get the opportunity to study a foreign language until I started secondary education (where we learned 3 at once!). I loved it from the very beginning thanks to some dedicated and passionate teachers. Like most preteens though I felt so self-conscious forming these new sounds in front of my peers. 

When a new language is presented to younger children however, especially those in preschool, they have no such inhibitions. They are generally more willing to call out their new words with confidence and relish mimicking unfamiliar sounds. Furthermore the younger a child is the better their ability to imitate sounds.

Lack of inhibition is not the only advantage of introducing young children to a foreign language, there are many more.

What are the benefits of learning a new language?

Exposure to foreign language learning prepares children for further language study and easier understanding of language structures. It even supports a better understanding of the structures and complexities of their own native language. Multilingualism benefits academic performance in children.

Learning a new language aids the ability to solve problems and encourages critical thinking capabilities as well as nurturing creativity and improving memory skills. As children grow older a second language opens doors! As the world gets smaller with better technological links, the need for bilingual workers increases. Nowadays it is much easier for companies to do business with other countries so having employees who can communicate easily in a foreign language will always be an advantage.

Universities also look favourably on bilingual students and many volunteering opportunities are available to those who can communicate in more than one tongue. A new language encourages a broader world view. Travel becomes instantly more enjoyable with the ability to communicate with locals. Getting around becomes easier when you can communicate with ticket vendors and read timetables.

You find you have the opportunity to meet new friends, try new experiences and sample exotic cuisine. There are more books to read, songs to enjoy and friends to meet. 

There is no doubt, monolingualism is no longer cool!

How to encourage a language learning at home

Even if you don’t speak another language yourself it is possible to encourage a foreign language rich environment in your own home.

Many children’s television programs are available online in foreign languages, Peppa Pig for example has been translated into over 20 other languages! This is a great way for children to hear new sounds in a familiar way.Most popular books are available in translated formats. Can you guess which familiar title has been translated as El tigre que vino a tomar el te (Spanish), Ein Tiger kommt zum Tee. (German), Una tigre all'ora del tè (Italian) and Le Tigre qui s'invita pour le thé. (French). Yes! It’s The Tiger who came to Tea!

Help your child spot colours or count objects in their foreign language around your home.  You could also stick labels around the house to familiarise your family with words for everyday objects. Play traditional children’s songs in the target language or find familiar nursery rhymes which have been translated.

Become familiar with the culture attached to the language your child is learning. Look up information on festivals, artists or music of the country.  Enjoying food from your target language country is another great way to learn new vocabulary!

Giving your child the opportunity to learn a new language is not only beneficial to their development in so many ways but it is also a lot of fun!

Tortuga Lingua

Tortuga Lingua is based in Newtownabbey and brings engaging and relevant foreign language sessions to preschool settings, private nurseries and primary schools. We also run some classes in community for toddlers.  The sessions are delivered by a qualified teacher and are developed in line with the Northern Ireland curriculum.  We look at variety of themes relevant to the specific learning stage of the children as well as one off workshops.

Children use lots of props, sing songs, enjoy storytelling and play games in our interactive, multisensory sessions. We can provide activities for children to continue their language learning at home as well as support for teachers and parents on consolidating new vocabulary.

Tortuga Lingua have an exciting Spanish Summer Club in Glengormley Pavilion in August and the new term of Spanish and French community classes starts in September. Follow us on Facebook and Instagram for all our new classes! For further information find us online www.tortugalingua.com or email marielouise@tortugalingua.com

About the author:
Marie Louise McKendry

BA hons in Applied Languages and PGCE in Modern Languages

Marie Louise McKendry
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