Published : Mar 21, 2019

Truths and Myths About Language Learning for Infants and Young Children

Which are truths, and which are myths?

  • Hearing two languages at home will confuse children, and they may not be able to differentiate between the two
  • Infants in bilingual households acquire speaking stills later than others
  • Bilingual children have a more difficult time learning grammar

All were once considered truths, but are now considered myths.

A wide variety of research from many different studies shows that young children raised in bilingual households are not at a disadvantage, compared with others. In fact, there are definite advantages. This is particularly true in Canada which is not only bilingual officially, but is becoming home to a growing of immigrants, creating more bilingual environments.

The most recent evidence indicates:

  • Babies born into bilingual households are not more easily confused.
  • “From just days after birth, all infants can tell the difference between many languages,” says Barbara Zurer Pearson, author of Raising a Bilingual Child. Research supports her position.
  • Infants in a bilingual environment develop a longer attention span, earlier, than those who have not, according to research conducted by Toronto’s York University.
  • Researchers believe this may be the result of constantly discerning between one language and another, sharpening their concentration skills.
  • Even younger children in bilingual households are better at multi-tasking.
  • It’s likely this comes from balancing two languages at the same time, without having one dominate the other.
  • Children raised in bilingual environments tend to be more adaptive to changing environments and situations, even in their younger years.
  • Again, switching from one language to another helps them move more easily from situation to situation, an important skill that can help them later in life.
  • Bilingual children often become better problem solvers and decision makers.
  • Research indicates they are more skilled at separating important from irrelevant information.
  • Speaking a second language can also help build family relationships.
  • This is particularly true in immigrant households where some family members speak only their native language and may feel distanced from their children or grandchildren.

What about children in monolingual households?

Don’t they deserve the same benefits?

Clearly, teaching children a second language is more complicated for these parents. Language learning requires a structured, consistent program, and many need support such as the “Kids” program designed by Berlitz, which encourages children to speak rather than study monotonous verb tables and tenses.

Children raised in bilingual households can also benefit from Berlitz, particularly if both parents are not proficient speakers of both languages.

Berlitz has learning centres throughout Canada and also offers language learning online with a live instructor.

Research indicates that the best time for children to learn a new language is from birth to three or four years old; however, it’s also easier for children of all ages to learn and acquire the same benefits mentioned above.

It’s also important to note that the benefits of language learning extend from the beginning of life to, well, almost the end.

A wide variety of research shows that language learning, even in adults in their 60s or 70s helps maintain memory and mental acuity and delays the onset of Alzheimer’s.

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