Second Language plus Child Equals Smarter Child
Presented by Beth Butler/Creator of the BOCA BETH Program
Never before has it been so evident that our young children must be bilingual if they hope to succeed at a high level in this ever shrinking world of ours. Read this practical and easy to apply view from mom, teacher and bilingual consultant Beth Butler.
Many of you reading this already are on to the fact that being bilingual is no longer an option, it is a necessity. As a mom of three children, all of whom are bilingual to varying degrees, and as an educator of thousands of young children over the past twenty years, I have watched first hand the growing demand from our society to prepare our young children for a global economy.
No longer is it enough to give them a few colors and shapes in preschool, hope that their elementary school might incorporate a few days of the week here or months there, and then trust that, come middle school, they will eagerly and easily catch on to second language learning.
We know that is not how it works. We have all witnessed the lack of enthusiasm for middle school Spanish class from most teenagers in our lives. The groans from those high school kids who must finish their second year of a foreign language in order to get accepted to any college are more than most parents and teachers can bear. But this is the sad fact of most children in the United States of America.
Unlike other countries that provide early language learning in two, three, sometimes even four languages, our USA has been remiss on hopping on the world language bus! We have allowed our children to experience the disservice of never gaining a lifetime of language learning skills when it is easy and fun for them. And that my fellow parents and teachers would be before the age of five.
Yes! I said five! It is a statistic that almost ninety percent of our brains are developed by the age of five. These same experts have determined that it is easier for a very young child to learn a new language than it is to wait until middle school age, the age that our public school system as a whole begins the introduction of new languages in their curriculum and class selections.
With all of that being determined and shared with you, I urge you then to read just a bit further to understand the many other benefits of learning a second and third and yes, even fourth, language. And, my friends, I am urging you to have your child enjoy all of this global learning before even entering elementary school! Crazy I am not. Concerned I am.
There is a reason the test scores of our country reflect poorly on the academic prowess of our youth. There is a reason the United States falls far, far behind other countries in a work force well skilled in math and science. Did you know that bilingual children, those who have had the gift of learning more than their native language since early in their youth, experience higher standardized test scores? Most often children who have been exposed to two or more languages early in life score an average of twenty three to thirty four points higher in both the verbal and math sections of standardized tests when compared to monolingual children.
Astounding is it not? Makes you wonder why our system does not mandate second language learning in every classroom across our country. Or why are not new parents trained in how to give birth and give the gift of a second language to their baby? If a new mom reads to her child in not just one but two languages that child will experience early reading skills when compared to his peers who grew up hearing only one language.
Not bilingual yourself you might comment at this point? Not a problem. There are studies and people to prove the point that you do not have to be bilingual yourself in order to introduce a new language to your little child. Two linguistic PhDs recently wrote a book titled The Bilingual Edge which speaks directly to parents and teachers who are monolingual, longing to raise bilingual children. The point they stress in this insightful book is that interacting with the young child and making the play and learning associated with the new language meaningful are much more important than the fact that you may not be a native speaker of the target language.
I am a native born American girl who had the great fortune of learning Spanish through years of study and time spent living in both Chile and Mexico. Never once did I hesitate to make more cassette tapes for my first grade students way back in the day of no CDs just because I was not a native Latina. In fact, the parents of my students thanked me profusely for bringing a new language to their children. A language that was so dominant around them in their daily lives and would allow these children to travel successfully through a very global economy.
I will tell you that now, as I deal more and more with the toddler and preschool age children, I realize even more language learning seems to take place during those very formative years. It is the kind of learning where you feel like you can literally see the new words from the new language going into the ears of the young child and being soaked up like a big sponge soaks up water!
Little children between the ages of one and five learn with such reckless abandon. They have no inhibitions placed on them from society at this point so they feel free to learn and express what they learn at any and all times. Those of us who have had or still have toddlers and preschoolers in our lives know just what I am talking about! Ask them to tell you what they learned, and you might as well pull up a big easy chair. Ask a ten year old or even more so a sixteen year old what they learned in school and silence ensues! It is like asking your old calico cat to come when she is called!
Let us all make the commitment to raise a generation of youth that IS prepared for success in a world in which they are surrounded by many languages, many people and many challenges. It is our responsibility to give them the gift of more than just English, as their parents, as their teachers. No excuses of budget cuts. No excuses of being too busy. There a plethora of free resources online and affordable multimedia products that this young age group responds well to and learns terrifically with.
Make the second language journey fun! Join your classroom children or your own children on the quest to become global citizens in all respects, including knowing multiple languages. The language they learn is only the beginning of the many benefits they will experience living a life as a bilingual being!
About the Author: Bilingual educator, consultant and keynote speaker Beth Butler is founder of the Boca Beth Program where they make it fun and easy to introduce Spanish as a second language to young children ages birth – eight. Sample the bilingual music and movies for free at http://www.BocaBeth.com or call to order toll free 1.811.825.2622.