Learning a Second Language at an Early Age
By François Thibaut, Founder of The Language Workshop for
hold a unique ability to acquire language skills and build first-rate
verbal processing skills that has been proven to play a critical
role in their future careers, as well as their successes along the
way. Some parents and educators believe a second language does not
become imperative until high school. However, we have outlined eight
key reasons why children, even those as young as six months old,
will benefit from learning these skills as early as possible. In
fact, The Language Workshop for Children (LWFC) believes that the
younger the student, the better.
Capture the Critical Period: At about seven months, a baby's
neocortex develops to the point that their long-term memory starts
working. This is the beginning of what psycholinguists and neurolinguists
call a child's critical period. During this stage, and until the
brain begins losing its plasticity around age 12 or 13, children
have their greatest potential to absorb and retain language skills.
Mr. Thibaut cautions, "You don't want to let a child's prime
time to learn a new language slip away."
Boost English Language Skills. Many English words share Latin
roots with Spanish, French and other languages. Learning the meaning
of a foreign word enhances a student's chance of knowing the meaning
of an English word.
Improve Verbal Test Scores. Seventy five percent of the verbal
section of the SAT I and a large portion of the ISEE, SSAT and ACT
tests, measure vocabulary skills. Studying another language builds
an inventory of root word similarities, driving higher school entrance
Speak Like a Native. Language is stored in the brain's left
hemisphere, with pronunciation and grammar in the Brocas area. If
we learn a word after puberty we will always pronounce it differently
than if we learned it before our critical period ends. This is because
by age 13, newly learned words are channeled to a completely different
place in the Brocas area. As Thibaut says, "That's why my accent
will always be charming."
Learn Before We're Self-Conscious. Children have emotional advantages
too. Since they're not as self-conscious as adults, they are not
afraid of getting it wrong or saying it funny. Youngsters are willing
to call out their new foreign words (whether right or wrong) and
their spontaneity pays off with a faster fluency adoption.
Children's Language Classes use Whole Brain Learning. Many psycholinguists
believe it is critical to link emotion to learning. Language education
for both children and adults is more successful when techniques
are used that link the left hemisphere's skills (logic, math, and
literal meaning) with right brain skills (emotion, music and voice
melody). One example of this is the structured playgroup approach
(pioneered by Thibaut in 1973 to teach children). As Mr. Thibaut
says, "Children remember what makes them happy."
Future Careers. The more we know, the more we are worth. Learning
multiple languages gives us the tools to do business in a global
world. There is an ever growing need in corporations for candidates
that are able to understand contracts drawn in another language,
negotiate terms with a foreign vendor and more. Help your children
be more marketable when they set out in the workforce.
Learning from the LWFC's Two-Year Olds. The proof is in the
pudding. Thibaut's Manhattan Language Workshop for Children divides
Tots into three age groups: 6-16 months, 13-24 months and 2 to 3
the past, the LWFC had grouped all the students (between the ages
of 24 months to three years) by age. This resulted in children who
had taken French for Tots or Spanish for Tots since they were 6
months old, learning in the same classroom with absolute beginners.
Mr. Thibaut and his teachers saw that the experienced students were
absorbing and repeating the vocabulary (which was designed to be
new for all students) significantly faster than the inexperienced
the teachers slowed down to allow the inexperienced students to
follow, the seasoned children quickly got bored and began misbehaving.
Then, if the teacher began introducing more complicated material
again, the newer students were confused and could not respond.
was clear. Spending 18 months in a language-rich structured playgroup
had accelerated the early starter's verbal processing skills to
such a degree that they could no longer be placed with children
who, in other circumstances, would be considered their peers. Therefore,
The LWFC created an Advanced Tots program where its seasoned two
year olds now get the challenge they need.
About The Language Workshop for Children:
François Thibaut established Manhattan's The Language Workshop
for Children in 1973. It was the first educational program of its
kind to teach foreign languages to very young children. The Language
Workshop for Children has been offering their Thibaut Technique
classes exclusively to students in Manhattan, the New York area
and Greater Boston for more than 30 years. For more information,
or contact (877) 444-9595 / email: firstname.lastname@example.org.