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  • Writer's pictureNicola Maguire

Top 5 reasons: Why learn a language while reading with your child?

Updated: Sep 1, 2021

Babies' brains are amazing. Wherever they are born, they are capable of learning any sound from any of the over 800 sounds that make up the world's (around 7000) languages. There are many many reasons why this is a good thing, but I'm going to cover my top 5 reasons here.

1. It improves their cognitive abilities. By introducing a baby or child to more sounds as an infant, their brain is working harder than a child who is only having to learn one language. Therefore their cognitive abilities are naturally improved; including social and emotional skills, problem solving and communication, giving them a step up in their development.

2. They become better communicators. Did you know that by learning a second language, you improve knowledge of your first? After teaching many dyslexic students and students experiencing difficulties in literacy over 17 years as a teacher, I have seen many improve their understanding of English and furthermore, they don't miss out on the other wonderful aspects of language learning such as learning about different cultures and opportunities to travel.

3. Play-based learning means more learning, quicker. By introducing a second language in a relaxed, play-oriented way such as reading with your child, they will have a positive experience at the start of their language learning. More importantly, learning through play helps children learn quicker. There is differing research out there stating how many times a child needs to hear a sound before they are able to use it, I've read 500 and even 4000 times! Those of you who have heard little Raymond using 'colourful' language after hearing it only once I'm sure will definitely disagree! As well as repetition, the reaction they receive when they say a new word will also help them to remember it. Therefore, the way a new word or sound is introduced and how it is received are important. If it is introduced through play, it is more likely to stick, quickly.

4. Languages are about more than just words. Learning a language from a young age demonstrates to children there is a wider world out there with different perspectives, cultures and experiences. By sharing more about those different cultures from a young age, they are likely to be more able to accept and celebrate difference, as well as enrich their lives and broaden their horizons.

5. You get to learn the language too! Yes, babies brains are amazing, we know that... but actually so is yours. All brains benefit from learning another language, it builds new connections in your brain and according to a study undertaken by Edinburgh University and Institute of Medical Sciences in Hyderabad in India, it can even stave off the onset of dementia [Source: BBC]. As well as that, learning a language gives more purpose and more prospects for your future such as career opportunities and authentic travel experiences.

Learning something new is rewarding. According to Duolingo, 30 million people started learning a language during the pandemic. The fact that by the third lockdown, many were content binging the latest series on Netflix was only natural under the circumstances. Learning something new takes time and effort so trying to fit it in when raising a young family is tough. By combining reading together while learning something new, both of you will benefit both emotionally and academically.

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