When Joshua was a wee tiny behbeh, I would put him on the Boppy pillow in the floor in an attempt to not have to hold him for the seventh straight hour that day and the only song that calmed him was “Cabeza, Hombros, Piernas, Pies.” So I sang it. Over. And over. And over.
After taking Spanish in high school and college, I can’t sing the children’s song “Head, Shoulders, Knees and Toes” in English (which is what those Spanish words up there mean…except for piernas which actually means legs). I can, but it’s weird. In English, you have to use the conjunction “and” between every body part and it just feels…strange…to me. In Spanish, the words are multisyllabic and fit better so I just like it more. (I feel like this is hard to explain and y’all are starting to think I’m some sort of weird-o…oh…wait….)
Anyway, I joked that he’d learn his body parts in Spanish before he learned them in English. (So far, that hasn’t been the case, unless “tee tee” is the Spanish word for boy parts and I didn’t learn that in school. And please don’t leave the Spanish word for boy parts in the comments because that would surely attract all sorts of interesting people here. Email me instead. I mean…uhh…moving right along….::ahem::)
Thankfully, I didn’t feel so weird singing to him in Spanish because I thought it was fun and he didn’t scream at me.
I’m also happy to report that thanks to a toy telephone he was given last Christmas by his Harmie (which is a shortened Americanized version for the Korean word for “grandmother” because, uh…I mean, have you seen my husband?) and Grandbob, he can say “au revoir.” (That’s French for “goodbye” for those of you like me whose only knowledge of French comes from a proposition found in the song “Lady Marmalade” and the movie Hot Shots, Part Deux. And the phrase “menage e trois“. ZOMG. What is with me and the inappropriate knowledge of French!?!?!)
So, what’s the real point of this seemingly endless drivel about boy parts and naughty French phrases?
Well, baby brains are sponges for language.
I received an email from Emily with Primrose Schools offering to share information with my readers about a topic of my choice and I chose bilingual education.. (No, Joshua does not attend a Primrose school. While I like their style, they are far too rich for my teacher-salary blood.)
(As an educator, I couldn’t really pass up the opportunity to educate people on the value of teaching children!)
Words, of ALL kinds, are sort of my thing, so I’m happy to be sharing this love of words with Joshua. I hope you find the following information…ummm….informative? Yes, informative!! Read, learn, then go speak another language!
Early Childhood Education – The Best Time For Bilingual Learning
A second language is typically introduced into a child’s learning curriculum beginning in middle school, or in some cases, even high school. However research has shown that this teaching can begin at their child care facilities. Studies clearly demonstrate that the optimal period in a child’s life for multilingual education is at the early ages of 2 to 5, the exact same time they are learning their first language. Yes, it is possible to learn a second and third language later in life, but it is more difficult, because that neurological “window of opportunity” – when the brain is most malleable – has passed.
Educators throughout the world (in countries that often have two or even three official languages) have understood this for decades actually. According to Dr. Fred Genessee, Professor of Psychology at McGill University in Montreal, it’s just as easy for young children to learn two or three languages as it is for them to learn one.
At this early point in a child’s life the brain is most flexible, making it easy for children to naturally learn a second language. Adults must work through an established first language system, and go about learning grammar rules to learn a second language, but children can learn more naturally. By absorbing sounds, structures, patterns and rules of a second language, they almost just mimic to learn.
The best way for a child to learn a second language is to be totally immersed in the environment, allowing them to take it in and mimic the language. While all parents can’t simply just take their children to a foreign country, by getting involved with your children you can come close to the same experience. Take them to a cultural festival in your area, or have your own at home!
Benefits That Last A Lifetime
The cognitive benefits are great for your child, giving them a boost for when they enter into elementary schooling. Basic skills like problem solving skills, spatial relation skills, communication skills and flexible skills are more advantage as well.
These benefits go beyond the elementary classroom too. Studies have shown that multilingual individuals use more of their brains than monolinguals and a heightened sense of creativity compared to those who are monolingual. So by starting your child early, you’re not only effecting their short term schooling, but their lifelong education.
Co-written by Emily Patterson and Kathleen Thomas
Emily and Kathleen are Communications Coordinators for the network of Austin child care facilities belonging to the AdvancED® accredited family of Primrose child care schools. Primrose Schools are located in 16 states throughout the U.S. and are dedicated to delivering progressive, early childhood, Balanced Learning® curriculum throughout their preschools.