One of the easiest ways to help young children get ahead in life is by introducing them to both a home language and English from birth. Young brains are primed and wired to pick up languages, especially during their earliest years, and the benefits will pay off for the rest of their lives.
Studies show children are born with the ability to identify sounds from every language—a foundational ability in language learning. As they grow, their skills narrow to focus on the language(s) they hear most often.
Learning more than one language at the same time is not confusing to young children. Rather, it helps them develop multiple, but inter-related, language systems and increased cognitive functions.
Dual language learners demonstrate greater working memory, reasoning, flexibility and problem solving. Switching between languages gives them an increased ability to monitor their environment and do so more efficiently.
Knowing more than one language also can expand their career opportunities, keep them mentally sharp in their twilight years, and help them gain an appreciation for the culture and roots of their families.
The language parents speak to their children doesn’t have to be perfect or grammatically correct. The most important thing is to introduce them to it.
So talk, read, and sing with your children in multiple languages. They’ll say gracias, danke, merci, cám o’n and thanks to you for the rest of their lives.
California Children and Families Commission
This page is available to subscribers. Click here to sign in or get access.