Fiona Cottam, Principal at Hartland International School in Dubai, outlines the research that shows how a multi-lingual approach from a young age can improve your child's overall development:
"We know that two languages are better than one for children's cognitive development", a simple but powerful statement in a recent publication by the Harvard Graduate School of Education. There have been many opposing views on the benefits of second or multiple language learning at an early age, but the greater body of research suggests that the benefits of learning a foreign language extend beyond the ability to communicate in another language.
"Research shows that children who can speak more than one language at an early age have improved overall cognitive abilities, which has a positive impact on other areas of education and results in higher achievement in the core subjects of mathematics and reading. "Dr John Williams of The University of Cambridge says that, "For children, such 'implicit' language learning seems to happen spontaneously in the first few years of life; yet, in adulthood, learning a second language is generally far from effortless and has varied success."
"The ability to switch seamlessly between languages tends to make multi-linguists good multi-taskers, according to a study from Pennsylvania State University. Meanwhile, research from the University of Chicago indicates that learning other languages improves native language speaking and communication skills, as the understanding and manipulation of grammar and sentence structure enables greater fluency in the home language.
"Cognitive neuropsychologist Jubin Abutalebi, at the University of San Raffaele in Milan, explains that not only are there social benefits to multi-language learning, but brain imaging tools show there is a physical difference in the brains of bilingual people who have "significantly more grey matter than monolinguals in their anterior cingulate cortex (ACC)...". He says that the ACC is like a "cognitive muscle," meaning that the more that we use it, potentially, the cleverer we get!
"There is a physical difference in the brains of bilingual people, who have significantly more grey matter in their anterior cingulate cortex (ACC).
"Many countries across the world have more than one official language. In my home country of Ireland, though predominantly an English speaking country, it is compulsory to learn the Irish language in our schools. It inherently protects our culture and heritage, and there has been a huge revival in its use and learning in a Celtic revival of "Gealscoil" (Irish language schools) across Ireland.
"The dexterity and ability to speak a variety of languages can only further aid a child's career opportunities in the future. The predilection for travel, coupled with a shrinking world as technology puts us just milliseconds apart, mean there has never been a more important time for us to encourage language learning.
"Having the ability and willingness to engage with many different kinds of people could help society in better understanding and addressing the many global challenges that the present and future face. Through languages we might break down the bias and prejudice that threatens society so often and engage in a different type of dialogue: a new dialogue of multi-linguists that transcends boundaries, enabling our children to build their own brighter future."
Hartland International School, teaches Arabic from Foundation Stage, introducing four other optional languages from Year 2 when research suggests the brain is most receptive to a third language application. See Hartlandinternational.com for more info.