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If you want to become fluent in another language, you should start before the age of 10

12 May 2018

A recent paper published in the journal “Cognition” suggested that that those who start learning a language after the age of 10 are less likely to ever achieve fluency. What can you do to help a child acquire these language skills early on?

Today, the ability to speak more than one language fluently can open many doors throughout your career. Renowned contemporary psycholinguist, Frank Smith, said that “One language sets you in a corridor for life. Two languages open every door along the way.” For this reason, it surely makes sense to set your child on the right path early to acquire an additional language as soon as possible.

So why is learning another language so important?

New research has shown that by beginning to learn a new language before the age of 10, a student will more likely become fluent in the long-term. Mastering additional languages fluently undoubtedly gives a student more options when considering their higher education and career choices, in comparison to someone who is monolingual. A student could go on to study at higher-education establishments overseas or enter the worlds of business, education and the arts in foreign territories; these are just some of the areas where having more than one language will offer you more opportunity.

A recent paper published in the journal “Cognition” suggested that that those who start learning a language after the age of 10 are less likely to ever achieve fluency, “The results support the existence of a sharply-defined critical period for language acquisition”. This period falls crucially in early years development and primary education. The paper goes on to suggest that even basic linguistic learning abilities fade by ages 17 or 18. The findings come from an online grammar test taken by nearly 670,000 people of different ages and nationalities. Learning a second language also exercises the brain in a different way. Oxford academic, Stanislas Dehaene, writes in the journal “Brain, a Journal of Neurology” that when a child learns a second language, their brain will make use of different regions from those involved in using their mother tongue.

What can you do to help your child acquire these language skills early on?

This should be a collaborative effort between the parent, student and school. There are many ways you can help your child reach their linguistic potential. In the early years, vary the media you expose your child to. Read them stories in other languages, find suitable foreign TV shows and films for them to watch. Most obviously, if you speak other languages yourself, communicate regularly with your child in these. Converse with your child in two languages equally, alternating days in each language is always a positive approach.

When considering school choices, identify a school’s dedication to languages. Do they offer classes in more than just the UK standard of French or Spanish? Has the school sent any students on to study at international universities? Does the school arrange regular field trips overseas? Don’t be afraid to ask these questions when visiting a school. Encourage your child to choose languages at GCSE and A-level, these standards will not only hone oral communication skills in a chosen language but develop written and grammatical skills that are vital when considering careers overseas.

Finally, encourage your child to learn new languages by explaining the long-term benefits. Most children won’t understand the positive impact acquiring other language skills will have on their future, gently reassure them that whatever they want to be when they grow up, they could do it anywhere in the world with the ability to communicate in foreign dialects.

How can UK Study Centre help you?

UK Study centre has many qualified, professional and personable language tutors to suit all ages and abilities. If you don’t feel your child is getting enough support in school, tuition either online or at home will help them further develop their language skills to a higher standard. We also offer clients consultations on school and university choices; we can advise you on studying overseas and have several experienced tutors who can assist students with applications.

So, learning an additional language has many long-term benefits. Not only does it open up a student’s higher education and career options, but it also enriches a student, making them a more sociable and open individual. Starting young has been proven to give a better chance of achieving fluency, so why not start today!

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