One of the easiest ways to help young children get ahead in life is by introducing them to both a home language and English from birth. Young brains are primed and wired to pick up languages and the benefits will pay off for the rest of their lives.
Studies show children are born with the ability to identify sounds from every language – a foundational ability in language learning. As they grow, their skills narrow to focus on the language(s) they hear most often. Learning more than one language at the same time is not confusing to young children. Rather, it helps them develop multiple, but inter-related, language systems and increased cognitive functions.
Dual-language learners demonstrate greater working memory, reasoning, flexibility and problem solving, as well as an increased ability to monitor their environment and do so more efficiently.
The language parents speak to their children doesn’t have to be perfect or grammatically correct. The most important thing is to introduce them to it.
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So talk, read and sing with your children in multiple languages. They’ll say “gracias, danke, mercí, cảm ơn and thanks” to you for the rest of their lives.
Lupe Jaime, director, Early Care and Education, Fresno County Office of Education