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There are overwhelming benefits for students who study any foreign language, and that study should begin as early as possible. Empirical findings indicate a direct correlation between the amount of time devoted to language study and the language proficiency that students attain.
Studies suggest that the optimum time for beginning to learn another language is between birth and puberty for reasons encompassing biological and neurological development as well as young children's natural curiosity for sounds and rhythms, ability to mimic sounds, and uninhibited eagerness to experiment with language.
Research also shows that students who study a foreign language for four or more years, regardless of which language is studied:
We also know that the longer students are able to study a particular language, the more likely they are to communicate in that language, and this helps to ensure that students will be able to access a second or third language more easily.
- score significantly higher on the SAT and ACT, socioeconomic status notwithstanding;
- develop greater cultural sensitivity toward others;
- have larger vocabularies;
- perform better on tests of reading and math;
- have higher developed listening and retention skills;
- are more creative;
- display more highly developed critical thinking skills.
Learning a second language at an early age...
"When children wait until high school to start studying a foreign language, the job is much harder. The task now involves learning the rules of grammar, translating, reading, and trying to develop language learning strategies. The task is a different one than it was for the young child in the sensitive period for language learning. Brain plasticity has been lost, the number of synapses has greatly reduced, and the brain no longer has the same facility to restructure itself that it had when the child was young."
- Has a positive effect on intellectual growth.
- Enriches and enhances a child's mental development.
- Leaves students with more flexibility in thinking, greater sensitivity to language, and a better ear for listening.
- Improves a child's understanding of his/her native language.
- Gives a child the ability to communicate with people s/he would otherwise not have the chance to know.
- Opens the door to other cultures and helps a child understand and appreciate people from other countries.
- Gives a student a head start in language requirements for college.
- Increases job opportunities in many careers where knowing another language is a real asset.
-Dr. Susan Curtiss, Professor of Linguistics at UCLA
Research notes: Language learning and the developing brain. (1996, winter).
"Learning Languages,1"(2), 17. http://www.cal.org/earlylang/benrsr.htm