Benefits of Learning a Second Language
Your kids won't be confused or distracted by learning 2 idioms...
Why would parents want their children to learn a second language while they are still familiarizing with their mother tongue? This appears to be learning overload at a time they are also acquiring skills in how to be friends, count, and play on the playground. But, we are at a point in our lives when learning a second language comes very naturally.
Young children's brains are best suited to start learning a second language until the age of three, at the same time as the brain is at its most malleable. In fact, bilingually exposed infants excelled at detecting a language switch as young as 6 months old. They can familiarize with a foreign language as easily as they learned to walk and speak. Acquiring a second idiom has no negative consequences for the child's native tongue.
Adults must consider grammar rules and practice, but young kids quickly pick up on sounds, structures, intonation patterns and the rules of a second idiom. Young learners benefit from flexible ear and speech muscles that can detect differences between the sounds of another idiom until the age of eight.
Exposure to two idioms over one language has many benefits...
Bilingual kids have a superior ability to focus on one thing and change their response, easily indicating ability to switch between different mental tasks and strategies. The youth must select one and suppress the other, which requires attention and the ability for the brain to be flexible, which is possible at this early age. This is a great way to give the mind an exercise to make it stronger every time an internal conflict has to be solved.
While young children may find it easier to learn a foreign idiom, there are advantages for adults as well. Researchers discovered that young adults who knew two languages outperformed those who only spoke one idiom on attention tests and had better concentration. They also respond more quickly and accurately than their monolingual counterparts. This is largely due to the mental exercise our brain receives when switching back and forth between languages, deciding how to communicate. It enables us to concentrate better during a lecture and remember important information.
There are numerous advantages to learning two languages rather than one. Children who are bilingual can have a greater capacity to concentrate on one item and then adjust their answer, suggesting cognitive versatility. Every time a bilingual toddler tries to communicate, the languages in his or her brain compete for activation and selection. This is easier at a young age. The interference forces the brain to resolve internal conflict, providing a workout for the mind's cognitive muscles.
Children who are bilingual are also better at solving certain types of mental puzzles. Bilingual kids were more successful at dividing objects by shape and color versus their monolingual peers who struggled when the sorting by shape was added. This means that learning a second language strengthens the brain's command center, allowing it to prepare, solve problems, and perform other mentally challenging tasks. These tasks include switching attention from one thing to another and holding information in mind, like remembering a sequence of directions, getting ready for school in the morning or, for adults, driving a car.
Kids brains are adaptable...
Do not be concerned that your kids will become confused or distracted by acquiring two idioms. Their brains are adaptable, and the skills they gain beyond learning a second language are incalculable. Bilingual children learn that an object remains the same even if it has a different name in another language. A hand, for example, remains a hand in both English and Spanish. Foreign language learning has also been shown in studies to improve critical thinking skills, creativity and mental flexibility.