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Bilingualism among children: a long-term acquisition

The vast majority of bilingual children learn their languages naturally; they grow up in an environment where two or more languages are required. Bilingualism therefore develops without any real linguistic planning by their family or acquaintances. But what solutions are offered to monolingual parents to help their children become bilingual?

Childcare in foreign languages to promote cognitive flexibility

Frequent learning in a fun, bilingual environment with a familiar person is THE best way to be immersed in a foreign language. Parents get childcare for their children but also get the opportunity to introduce them to a new language. This concept gives children a certain immersion in foreign languages while staying within child’s normal surroundings.

As we say time and time again, the best way to learn a new language is to start young. Between the age of two and seven, children go through a critical learning phase for language development. Before the age of seven, children are very responsive and try to communicate.
The less the child realises they are learning a new language, the better! Thanks to the bilingual nanny, they are directly in contact with a native speaker who is able to teach them the language in an interactive and fun way; either with games or by simply by using everyday terms. It is through this interaction and attachment between child and nanny that a line of communication is opened up and that linguistic barriers are surpassed.

Moreover, learning a new language stimulates children’s’ cognitive growth, especially in terms of their general intellect and their ability to read, as underlined by the Journal of Neuroscience’s 2015 studies.

Educational tools to aid language learning

Educational activities in language learning are vital tools for engaging children: arts and crafts, games, singing and reading… All these methods help to introduce children to a language; at the same time are enjoyable and correspond to children’s abilities. Playing games helps children to associate ‘saying’ with ‘doing’ and thus makes them an active participant in their learning. This can also be done through storytelling, to familiarise children with pronunciation of words or even through arts and crafts to help them understand the meaning of new vocabulary. Bilingualism therefore develops in a rich and varied environment which must be affective and continued. It is clear that, in a society that is becoming more and more globalised, fluency in another language is not only a useful tool, but also an absolute necessity in order to help the younger generations to gain access to communication and careers worldwide.

By Jennifer Cleaver

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