Research shows that children under the age of six have a greater capacity to learn a second language than older children, and even adults.
Myth vs. Reality
Some parents mistakenly believe that speaking to their child in different languages will confuse them and delay language development. However, studies have shown that being bilingual does not cause language delays in children. In fact, learning multiple languages is beneficial for the development of your child’s brain for executive function, creativity, communication, and analyzing and solving problems.
According to research by cognitive scientist Judith F. Kroll of Pennsylvania State University, learning two languages can actually alter the structure of your child’s brain because the brain is working hard to switch between two or more languages. The brain is always “on” and continually being “exercised” by processing information in multiple languages simultaneously. The mental workout of juggling between two or more languages literally reshapes and rewires the child’s brain networks that support each language.
Baby Brain Power
One study by Kroll compared infants brought up learning two languages with those that were exposed to only one language. The study found differences in where the babies looked when listening to people talk. The bilingual babies studied the speaker’s mouths rather than looking at their eyes. The research suggests that the infants were looking for non-verbal cues as to the language being spoken.
The study found that babies who are listening to two languages become attuned to those two languages right away. “It’s not confusing them or messing them up developmentally—the opposite is true,” cites Kroll.
“Bilinguals are really a model of cognitive control.”
—Judith F. Kroll, Pennsylvania State University Cognitive Scientist
Advances in brain imaging technology have shown that the brain’s left hemisphere is more dominant and analytical in logical processes while the right hemisphere is more active in emotional and social areas to a certain degree. Children learn language more easily because the elasticity or “plasticity” of their developing brains lets them use both brain hemispheres in learning multiple languages. While in most adults, language is generally dominated by one hemisphere, usually the left.
Early Development and Education
At Apple Montessori Schools, our experienced teachers and caregivers focus on your child’s critical “sensitive period” for language development, from birth to six years of age. We know that constant communication with your child is imperative to help them absorb one or more languages. In our diverse, multi-age classrooms, we encourage the use of words and phrases in multiple languages to expand your child’s learning experience and growth, both physically and mentally. Apple’s early learning reading program and sound cards support language development.