It is becoming increasingly clear that a person who is fluent in English has more benefits in school, more prospects for employment, and is better able to communicate in this increasingly globalised society. It is evident that our children’s modern culture includes the use of English as a language and a means of communication. But there are even more advantages to learning English early on for the brain than just the apparent ones.
Numerous research studies published in How Languages are learned by Oxford University Press show that the study of English as a foreign language at an early age enhances communicative ability and promotes learning of other languages, including one’s mother tongue. Additionally, it makes education more globalised by providing a window into the sociocultural context of the language being studied.
Let’s get to the point: why is it important to start English before the age of 6? Research in the field of Psychology and Pedagogy refers to the importance of starting at an early age as the child’s brain is very malleable and susceptible to new learning (‘Aprender Idiomas’ ed. PAIDÓS). This is due to the fact that during a child’s formative years, the brain organises the various connections among its neurons. The child will gain from learning new skills in this early stage in two ways: first, by learning English, of course. First, because their brain will keep growing new connections between neurons, and second, because learning will be easier and faster for them.
In addition, there is the fact that at this age children learn better because there are no pressures of work, finances, family or other concerns that may hinder learning. This is why learning foreign languages at an early age considerably improves cognitive development, and therefore children who learn English from an early age show several cognitive advantages over children who do not. To take a practical example, a bilingual child learns more quickly that an object is the same, even if it is called by two different names in different languages. House is still house in English when we say “house”.
Learning a language is considered a cognitive problem-solving activity rather than a linguistic activity per se, according to research published in the scientific journal Pedagogia Magna. Learning a second language at an early age has been shown to significantly enhance a range of skills such as critical thinking, flexibility of mind and creativity. Early English language learning increases the likelihood of developing pronunciation and intonation that is highly similar to that of a native speaker. Studying foreign languages has also been demonstrated to improve memory and listening abilities, as well as improve your ability to read, write, talk, and express oneself more effectively in your native tongue.
According to other research, even with more hours of math teaching, kids who learn languages perform better in arithmetic than kids who start learning math later.
Being constantly learning and keeping your brain engaged is one of the long-term advantages of learning a second language. Because the brain continues to be active and regenerate new neural connections as a result, new research suggests that learning a foreign language can stall the onset of Alzheimer’s disease.
But we’re curious about the best age to begin teaching foreign languages. Many experts respond to this by stating that a child should be between the ages of three and six.
For these reasons, Princess Margaret International School offers a multilingual educational project that goes beyond English language immersion. This allows students to learn and master both English and the two languages that are currently spoken in Catalonia at the same level, ultimately aiming for complete language proficiency in all domains (written and oral expression, reading and listening comprehension). With the help of the Read Write Inc. Phonics course, our pupils acquire reading and writing skills efficiently and rapidly. They advance to reading and grammar books after they can read quickly and accurately. Students from Primary 2 through Secondary 4 are prepared for the Cambridge Young Learners (A1) and Main Suite exams (A2-C1) after completing the programme.
To complete the language programme, our older students have summer stays in the New Forest and Liverpool depending on their level of English and age.
Not only are there linguistic, cognitive, and neurological advantages to learning English before the age of six, but there are also cultural advantages. A bilingual youngster grows in activity and comprehension of the world. Early school-age children are receptive to concepts of global knowledge. Thus, learning a foreign language—in our case, English—can be a valuable tool for helping students develop their ability to reason across cultural divides and extend their perspectives. According to psychologists, children go through significant developmental stages at this age. Children are transitioning from egocentrism to reciprocity, and the knowledge they are exposed to prior to turning ten years old is crucial throughout this time.
Early English language learning not only helps children acquire the language more quickly, but it also enhances their ability to communicate not only in the target language but also in their mother tongue. This is because the child gains an understanding of the language as a phenomenon and learns how to use its constituent parts appropriately. Moreover, the acquisition of this knowledge will influence the growth of cognitive and socio-personal abilities that will benefit their academic as well as personal development. Additionally, children who learn languages can expand their cognitive thinking, gain a more global perspective, and obtain knowledge that will help them understand new issues in the future.