There is a common phrase in English which says ‘a child’s mind is like a sponge’. You may be thinking that this is an odd thing to compare a mind to, but actually it sums children up perfectly! Their young brains are able to absorb all the information and knowledge we pass on to them, much more easily than adults can.
Very early in my ESL teaching career I was chatting with a six-year-old student, and told her the full names of myself, my mother and my father; eight names in total. The next week she came to class and repeated all the names perfectly to me! I couldn’t believe my ears and this gave me one of my most memorable “Ahaa” moments as a teacher. This young girl was able to recall eight English names that I had told her once in a casual conversation a week previous, I don’t know many adults who could do that! This helped me to realise how easily a child can learn and recall information, and how I, as a teacher, should utilise this amazing skill!
Learning a new language can be difficult for everyone, children and adults alike, but the younger a child learns a second or third language the easier it will be for them. When children learn foreign languages at a young age, they are more likely to learn it in a natural way, similar to the way they learned their first language. Think back to your younger days, do you remember learning your mother tongue? No, and neither do I, that’s because it came so naturally to us.
Children who are immersed in English from a young age tend to have a lot more confidence with speaking and expressing themselves in an English environment. They have the skills to be able to communicate fluently with people from all over the world, and will be less shy when encountering teachers and friends from other countries. They also gain an interest in the wider world, other cultures and ideas, which can only be of benefit.
Gaining language skills at a young age gives children independence, high confidence levels and boosts their self-esteem in all areas of their life. You may also find that it increases their cognitive skills and they embrace their creativity more. Children who learn English at a younger age also tend to have a more native-like pronunciation, which helps with effective communication.
Younger students are also less likely to be tied down by the grammar and vocabulary rules of their first language, and so will be thinking in English! By actually thinking in English, the child is able to share their thoughts and opinions in a fluent and natural way, and will be eager to express themselves. We also find that the more proficient a child’s English speaking ability is, the more proficient they are in other areas of English study too, such as reading and writing.
Whether your child chooses to remain in their home country or travel overseas for study or work, there is no denying that in today’s world English is the global language of business, trade and study. Having a strong grasp of English from an early age opens up worlds of opportunities which may have been otherwise closed to them.
“One language sets you in a corridor for life. Two languages open every door along the way.”
– Frank Smith, English Psycholinguist