You have probably heard that children are like “sponges” that absorb information and learn another language without much effort.
Throughout my experience as a Spanish teacher for adults and children, I have noticed that there is a big difference in the way they both learn Spanish. Children repeat, while adults try to translate it into their mother tongue.
During the first years of life our brain has a better capacity to retain information and learn new things. This happens because the head gives structure to the different junctions between neurons, which means that a baby’s brain is much more moldable than an adult’s, making babies learn another language faster.
Therefore, when we expose babies to two or more languages, they acquire the second naturally and unconsciously. Several scientists have found that babies before the first year have the ability to distinguish all sounds, which also facilitates learning.
What is the best age for a child to learn a language?
Definitely the earlier children start learning another language, the better it will be. Up to 7 years of age, children can learn any other language as if it were their mother tongue and that is something that should be taken advantage of.
Why is it harder for adults to learn a language?
Adults assimilate new information much more slowly, usually by making connections to existing information in the brain. The adult brain is much more selective, analyzing the importance, usefulness and relevance of new information. If he doesn’t understand something – if he can’t make a connection to existing information – he will discard it.
Benefits of learning a second language at an early age
1. Boosts problem-solving
Research shows that learning a second language boosts problem-solving, critical-thinking, and listening skills, in addition to improving memory, concentration, and the ability to multitask. Children proficient in other languages also show signs of enhanced creativity and mental flexibility.
Children who are exposed early to other languages display more positive attitudes to the cultures associated with those languages. The experience of learning a language introduces them to the world in ways they might otherwise have not experienced.
3. Open a world of opportunities
Contrary to popular belief, young children are not confused by the introduction of multiple languages at the same time. Not only do they naturally navigate multilingual environments, but acquiring a second language early in life primes the brain to learn multiple other languages, opening a world of opportunities for later on.