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Should Kids Learn Languages From An Earlier Age? Ja, Oui, Si, Tak!

Do you want to know something slightly embarrassing? When it comes to learning a foreign language we English-speakers are among the worst in the world. Now, there are obvious reasons for this – English is widely spoken around the world and is a business language. It is the first language of America, from where we get a lot of the films and TV we watch. So people are less inclined to learn.

With that said, 90+ per cent of Swedish, Dutch and Latvians, and 98% of people in Luxembourg can speak at least some of another language. In the UK, it’s 61%. It’s even worse in Ireland, with the total being 60%. And with the UK set to leave the European Union, the gap may well grow. But a second language is never not useful. So what should we do?

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Well, there are some people who think that we take a lesson from those other countries. In many nations around Europe, lessons in a second language begin in primary school. In most cases, it will not be until they enter secondary school that British pupils start to learn one. So should you take steps with your kids to encourage learning a new language?

Mais, Oui! Pourquoi Pas?

It’s regularly cited by education experts that the earlier we learn something, the more likely we are to retain it. You may have found this to be the case yourself, and it’s not a sign that you’re getting stupid as you age. By the time we’re 25, our brains are fully developed.

It doesn’t mean we can’t learn; it simply means we’re less receptive to new information. So it makes sense to focus more education on the younger years.

Which Language Should They Learn?

The decision as to which language to learn is up to you as a parent and your child – and indeed, any primary school they attend which may offer lessons. An obvious choice is French – it’s widely taught with lots of online resources, and is convenient for school trips to France!

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Some people prefer to go for a language they expect to be influential and in demand by the time their kids are grown up. If your child is highly precocious, this may mean Mandarin Chinese or Arabic a good idea. It is fair to say, though, that this presents a big challenge, with completely different alphabets from English. Meeting somewhere in the middle of both options, German may be the language to pick.

So There Are Pros, But What About The Cons?

Learning a language early is not a decision that is filled with drawbacks, it is fair to say. Some people argue that learning at this stage, while they are still picking up English, can be confusing. However, studies indicate that learning two languages in parallel only benefits the process.

Alternatively, there is the fact that by the time your child starts secondary school they may be ahead of the curve. Don’t worry about this. Post 11-year-old language learning will focus more on nuts and bolts of the language. Learning before is more vocabulary-centred. So while your kid will have a head start, they will not become complacent and bored in GCSE language lessons.

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