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Learning a second language from early childhood can ensure a bright future

Toorak College
Sep 12, 2019 12:36:27 PM

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September includes International Literacy Day, which celebrates the opportunity to highlight improvements in world literacy rates and reflect on the world's literacy challenges.  Research suggests that literacy skills are best developed during early childhood to ensure a bright academic future, particularly for learning a new language. 

Research indicates that 95 percent of brain development occurs before a child reaches Prep, highlighting that a child under the age of four is more adaptable to learning new concepts. With some of our best NAPLAN results in Literacy ever recorded this year, we are confident our learning approaches to unlocking literacy skills are effective. This is strengthened by our commitment to our students from Pre-Prep and beyond learning a second language and for our Year 8 students in 2020 having the opportunity to learn a third language. 

So, why is it important for children to learn a new language?

Learning a new language promotes rapid brain development

Learning another language helps to develop essential areas of children's brains. It also helps them to think more creatively, connect ideas and solve problems more easily. Language skills are localised in the frontal areas of the left-hand side of the brain.  Research suggests that bilingual speakers have more brain cells after absorbing new speech patterns and words, harnessing increased brain potential for literacy skills and many other complex-thinking tasks.  

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Learning a new language enhances English literacy skills significantly  

There is a lot of evidence to suggest that learning a second language also enhances English Literacy. Children can use their insight as to how English works compared to other languages in terms of speech patterns and pronunciation, which accelerates their ability to read and write. Language learners develop and enhance their skills and strategies for decoding and making meaning from words and this transfers to English too. As they become more exposed to new systems and patterns from learning a second language, their brains become more flexible and competent within their own ability to adopt literacy skills into their daily lives. Learning a second language can also provide a new beginning and success for learners who have struggled with English. This has been shown to be beneficial both in terms of English language development and for the self-esteem of learners. 

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It improves memory, accuracy and concentration

Learning a second language strengthens children's memory for sequences and their ability to concentrate and build connections. It can significantly heighten their length of concentration, which in turn, can improve their academic results. If a child can develop strong concentration skills, they are more likely to excel in many areas of their studies and develop a passion for learning and a belief in their ability to develop new skills. 

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It increases an awareness of other people, patience and progress

A language can divide or unify a group of individuals. Speaking in the same tongue as someone else can have huge positive impacts on those new to a country or community. Learning a second language from an early age can help develop empathy for others, as we immerse ourselves in a world foreign to our own. There is also an added complexity of learning a second language that is based less on achieving a framework of outcomes and more on personal progress. Students take to a new language very differently; some may be significantly slower than others to develop the rhythm of learning new cognitive patterns. By having those language skills in a student’s back pocket, it can help them learn in new and innovative ways that will test their patience, progress at a slower pace than in their normal subject classes, and will require a willingness to learn from the beginning. 

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When a child is exposed to a foreign concept like learning a second language, they can be more open-minded to new opportunities when they present and also be more engaged in other areas of learning throughout their time at school. Research indicates that there are many health and cognitive benefits to learning a second language and developing these skills from an early age is the perfect window to absorb new information rapidly for long-lasting memory. Not to mention, learning a second language helps our students to engage in globalisation and gain a strong sense of foreign cultures and perspectives. 

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