A child’s brain is naturally equipped and wired to acquire a language. In fact, the brain makes this a priority, along with learning how to walk, in order for the individual to be able to communicate as fast as possible. This is why children, especially babies acquire a language much easier, faster and better than adults.
While acquiring more than one language, many new areas of the brain are developed, for example babies raised multilingually have a much better capability at distinguishing different languages and their response to speech is very different than the one of monolingual babies. Multilingual children are proven to have better analytical, social and academic skills, in addition to better reading and writing skills.
Knowing more languages helps an individual feel self-assured and at ease in different environments, but also naturally increases the acceptance of other cultures and understanding of cultural differences.
Furthermore, the more languages a person speaks, the larger source of information they have. If a person specializes in a certain field, they can gain more than double amount of first-hand knowledge, if they are able to do research in more languages.
Ultimately, if a multilingual person wants to study more languages later on in life, they already have a big advantage since for them the differences in sounds, stress, rhythm, intonation and grammatical structures are easier to spot and learn. The same goes for languages with similar vocabularies.
Why is it better to promote multilingualism at an early age?
Babies are born with the ability to distinguish the unique sounds of any language in the world. This begins to diminish around 8 months of age, as the brain begins to make the connections necessary to recognize and learn the language they are exposed to most frequently, and they lose the ability to perceive sounds they have never heard between the age from 5 to 7 years old.
Do children that speak only one language have larger vocabularies than children that speak two or more languages?
This might be true if we only compare the vocabulary in one language. However, in multilingual children if the vocabularies of all languages are combined the total number of words they know is larger by 80 % by every language.
Do children mix up languages? Will it lead to confusion?
This can happen at the beginning especially in cases where the child doesn’t know the word they need in the specific language so they use a word from another. This diminishes later on, as the vocabularies in all languages become sufficient. Children also have an internal switch where they almost never interchange. The general rule is, that one teacher or one person must always speak one language to a child or in front of the child. That is why Espania kindergarten hires foreign teachers unable to speak Slovak.
Isn’t it better to learn only one language at a time?
In fact, after one language is learned properly, the brain becomes more rigid in recognizing speech patterns and speech sounds, so it takes much more motivation, effort and time to introduce a new language after. Instead, the best strategy is learning them simultaneously.
Isn’t learning more than two languages too much?
As long as they have consistent interaction, children will have no trouble learning more than two languages. Their brains are still very open to absorbing a great deal of new information and every child has the intellectual capacity for it. In order for a child to acquire a new language on bilingual level, the child must listen to it or speak it for 50 hours/month. Espania kindergarten's trilingual classroom provides from 56 to 60 hours of each language with a native teacher.