Although *everyone* says that *everyone* knows about the benefits of early language immersion and second language acquisition in the early years, do you really know why? In case that’s you, never fear– science is on the side of language immersion from an early age. That means there’s no need for guesswork! Rather than jump on the bandwagon of early language immersion feeling ill-equipped to back your choice, why not take a few minutes to get your talking points in order? These short articles I’ve linked below give an easy-to-digest glimpse into the potential benefits of early second language exposure.
Infants & Toddlers
In my relatively small case study with my own four bilingual children, the maximum “bang for your buck” is seen in the zero to three set. They say that birth to three years old proves to be when kids are most open to all the input you’re throwing their way, and I can attest to having observed this with my kids. My three boys, ages 12, 9 and almost 6, have all followed more or less the same pattern of French/English language development. All three were primarily French-speaking during the toddler years, as French was the home language and the language they were immersed in by caregivers at Atlas. Between ages 3-5, however, we noticed them coming home with English “kid speak” that their friends used on the playground. Our daughter, who is nearly three years old, seems to be following in the footsteps of her brothers.
In addition to possessing the perfect brain for learning new languages, infants and toddlers are arguably the perfect language immersion candidates because of their additional tendency to engage in parallel, as opposed to cooperative, play. Relationships with caregivers are what counts with infants and toddlers, whereas in older preschool children the relationships with other children start to play an equally important role. This natural progression supports the case that the language of the environment in infant and toddler groups– teacher language, music, stories read aloud– has the potential to get soaked up by infant and toddler “spongy” brains.
So what if you’ve got a preschooler? Not to worry. Whereas the infants and toddlers can claim the most spongy brains, preschoolers have a particular advantage when it comes to beginning a language immersion program: less separation anxiety. I’ve seen with my own four children just how much a child’s personality and introversion/extroversion can either throw a wrench in your parental plans for leaving the house, dropping the child off in a new (or even a familiar!) environment, and trying new activities. By age three, give or take, even more reticent and nervous children can usually get over their big feelings to begin childcare or preschool in a group-care setting, provided it’s a safe and fun environment! The frequency of attendance (more often is better) and relationships with both teachers and peers can count immensely to a preschooler.
In addition to being more comfortable in new environments, preschool children ages three to five start to engage in cooperative play, sing songs they learn at school, and pick up the language of their peers. If your child is not in a language immersion educational setting, all the available resources such as music, apps (see last week’s post), and short videos start to play a role in your overall “Raising a Multilingual” plan. In our home, age three is where we tend to see a bit more “Franglais”, if you will, and it’s also the age where we tend to shift our focus toward a more intentional language input plan. I now allow my daughter (who turns three in a couple weeks) to try out some of the easy French vocabulary apps on my phone, as I tend to think these as tools in our necessary toolbox for raising a bilingual child.
What about post-preschool years? Well, with two kids in French immersion Elementary School and one now in French immersion Middle School, I can tell you that raising children to be truly multilingual proves amazingly multifaceted. I would love to share more about what exactly our family’s experience has been thus far with sustaining second language use. But!– I’m gonna save it for another post:) In the meantime…
You may have seen on Atlas’ social media sites that we are offering a crazy discount for new enrollments by October 1st. In case you missed it, we’re offering HALF OFF your child’s monthly tuition cost for the second month they attend, when they enroll by October 1st. If you’re considering language immersion, or are unhappy in your current care setting, this might be the nudge you need to come in for a tour. To schedule a tour, just navigate to the Contact Us page on the website. Then you toggle to select the location you’re interested in, whether that’s West Linn (Spanish), Southeast Portland (French), or Southwest Portland (French OR Spanish, as well as after school care for 5-12 year olds!).