Value of Bilingual Education
Why Earlier is Better
Bilingual children use parts of the brain that are no longer accessible in later life. The brain’s ability to absorb and comprehend language is sharpest in the first year of life and starts to decrease after 12 months.
According to the Critical Period Hypothesis (CPH) of early brain development, the first few years of life up to age 5 establish the time during which language develops swiftly and after which language acquisition is much more difficult.
Children Who Start to Learn a Second Language in Preschool:
- Develop denser gray matter. The density of grey matter in the brain is considered a measure of a subject’s intelligence or skill in a particular area. A child actually builds new synapses in response to language experiences. The bilingual brain develops more densely, giving it an advantage in various abilities and skills.
- Acquire a native accent. The earlier you expose a child to a second language the easier it is to pick up the languages unique sound and acquire a native accent. Ability to hear different phonetic pronunciation is sharpest before age three.
- Develop proficiency in the language. Exposing a child to a foreign language at an early age will result in much easier and better fluency than if they learn later in life. Possibly you remember how fun and easy it was to learn German in high school? Starting around age ten, your child will lose the ability to hear and reproduce new sounds as they did when they were younger, making foreign language acquisition not impossible, but more difficult.
- Obtain a More global view. Becoming bilingual opens the door to communication with more people in more places, and many parents want to provide their children with skills to interact competently in an increasingly interdependent world community.
You learned your first native language by an immersion approach. Your parents and family members simply spoke to you every day. There was no need for translation because there was simply no language to translate.
How It Works
The Learning Garden takes advantage of this “window of opportunity” for preschoolers to pick up a new language. Three full days per week is typically the minimum (or five half days) for an effective language immersion experience.
Teachers speak in the target language 90-100% of the time. If a child does not understand something, the teacher uses body language, visuals, exaggerated facial expressions, and expressive intonation to communicate their meaning. Additionally, teachers will use songs, key phrases, books and games to engage and draw the child into the language. In preschool, it is common for students to speak English with their peers and when responding to their teacher – especially if they are not familiar with the language. As the year progresses, students naturally use more of the immersion language with peers and teachers.
Expect minor mix-ups. It’s natural for a child to confuse the word order or use words from both languages in the same sentence. He’ll quickly learn to separate the languages.
Don’t underestimate his/her progress. It is not true that learning two languages causes speech delays. Your little one might say fewer English words than other kids her age, but if you add in the words she knows in her second language, her total number of words will probably be more than that of her peers.