Kids, Language & Brains


Why Be Concerned About 2nd Language Options for Children?

Budget constraints and already tight scheduling are the usual culprits when it comes to defining which classes children will be offered.  It might be instructive for parents here to learn that Chinese children as young as three, four and five are being tutored in English, laying the ground for true bilingualism among these children who will be active consumers and leaders in the years ahead.  What is the usual pattern in our elementary schools?  If they offer 2nd languages at all, they tend to introduce them in middle school, grades 5 or 6 through 8, thus delaying what amounts to a life-long process that must be started early to produce bilingualism. Competition is one way to respond to the challenges of the Chinese approach to early 2nd language education.  Setting that aside for the moment, parents need to understand that early 2nd language learning will assure their children are better prepared for tomorrow, whatever it may bring.  Yes, it's lucky to be born into an English-speaking environment, but it's also limiting.  With English already well in hand, there's an inevitable tendency to conclude the world view that comes with it is the same as the world view of everyone else. And that's a huge mistake. Language has so much to do with the way we perceive, explain and understand the world. With only one language, we have only one point of view.  A single point of view won't serve the next generation well because the world they'll have to maneuver in will be different from the world of their parents. Globalization is a fact of life and its effects are going to become stronger in the years ahead.  Monolinguals will be at a disadvantage. Children of bilingual families should be encouraged to master their "home language" as well as their "school language" --English.  Then they'll be very well-equipped for the world they're going to function in.

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