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Learning a Second Language

By: Elizabeth Grace - Updated: 21 Nov 2012 | comments*Discuss
Foreign Language Study Learning A Second

In today's world, having the ability to speak several languages is an enormous advantage. Multicultural neighbourhoods are the norm and once children reach adulthood, they will certainly be exposed to a variety of languages in the workplace. Many parents would like to help their children to master a second language, but have some concerns.

When to Start

Ideally, begin exposing your children to more than one language from the start. In families where more than one language is used regularly in the household, children are able to learn both simultaneously. Parents often express worry that children being taught to speak two languages at the same time will be confusing, but quite the contrary is true. Children who are raised in multi-language homes typically learn to have mastery of both without any trouble whatsoever. One of the best ways to achieve this is to have one parent speak exclusively one language when addressing the child while the other parent uses only the second chosen language. Speaking in normal, everyday ways makes learning both languages second nature.

Methods of Teaching

There are three main methods for teaching a second language for school-aged children who are not fortunate enough to be exposed to a second language in their homes. The first is "immersion training," which involves the child spending part or even all of their school day being exposed to only the second language. In partial immersion, several hours a day are dedicated to foreign language; in full immersion, all subjects are taught in the second language.

The second, and most common method of teaching a second language, is when the language is taken as a distinct subject, much like history or algebra. This method works well, especially in younger children. Studies support the idea that the best time to begin a second language is before adolescence.

Lastly, some schools include bits of foreign language education into their study of varying countries and cultures. This method is not intended to produce fluency, but some students take away a valuable amount of terms and phrases.

Learning Together

If you currently speak only one language, you may want to consider learning a second language along with your child. Not only will it be beneficial for you, but having opportunities to practice the second language is vital in order to learn to speak fluently. It may seem awkward at first, but by slowly adding words and phrases to your vocabulary, you will find that you become increasingly comfortable with them. Don't be surprised if your child seems to have an easier time mastering the new language than you do; studies show that the younger the brain, the more easily it comprehends the learning of languages.

Go Multimedia

Locate books, videos, and music in the second language and take time to make them a part of your child's day. If you have the chance, try to take your child to cultural events and movies that are in the second language. Just as he first learned English by hearing it from a variety of sources, he will pick up the second language in much the same manner. The more exposure he has, the better.

Additional Benefits

Studies show that bilingual children score higher on standardized tests than those who speak only one language. In fact, students who have studied a foreign language for four or more years scored higher than students who had studied any other subject for the same number of years. Finally -- students who studied four years of foreign language scored higher in mathematics than students who had taken four years of math!

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