More than words
How introducing children to languages enriches more than just vocabulary
The ability to order a cup of coffee when travelling abroad is undoubtedly a useful one, but supporting your child in learning a language will give them far greater benefits than just being able to get themselves a hot drink or even pass a particular exam.
The benefits of learning a language as a child are incredible – whether that child is a pre-schooler or a teenager – and extend from higher confidence, cultural sensitivity and cognitive development to increased academic achievement in all other areas of their education.
While every child has the opportunity to learn a language at school, not every child will flourish at learning languages in the school environment and many young people who could have gone on to be very proficient linguists, lose confidence and wrongly label themselves as "no good at languages" because they lack support at crucial points in their learning experience.
The psychological and academic benefits of becoming confident in a language are so immense that many parents choose to invest in their child's future by giving them the opportunity of after school classes to provide the boost they need and encourage a true love of languages.
Around a third of the students at the Marlow Language Centre are under the age of 18 and range from four-year-olds learning to enjoy a new language with songs and games through to teenagers taking additional classes to supplement their school work or prepare for exams.
Giving your child the chance to learn a language, and supporting them as they do, is one of the biggest opportunities you can give them and here’s why…
It helps their brain develop
Research shows that learning a language helps a young person's brain develop in a different way to those that don't learn from a young age and affects the way the pathways of their brain are created.
It helps very young children to speak, read, write, listen and think in another way and develop an understanding that there is more than one way to interact with somebody, thereby also increasing their problem-solving skills. Young language learners develop better critical thinking skills, more creativity and enhanced memory.
Additionally, the discipline of learning a language – even when done in a fun way through songs, games and light-hearted lessons – will increase your child's self-confidence, self-esteem, resilience and tolerance.
Reassuringly, learning a language doesn't just help a child's brain develop; it is now also thought to prevent cognitive decline in old age and to protect against the early onset of Alzheimer's.
It improves their performance at school
A lot of our younger students come to the Marlow Language Centre because they want support with their academic performance. Many find they don't learn languages well in a school environment, either because they don't respond well to the teacher's style of tuition or because they are afraid to speak up in class. Some struggle with the pace of lessons without the ability to concentrate on areas of weakness, as they are able to do in the case of personal tuition.
Naturally, tuition out of school can improve a student's academic performance in that language, but learning another language actually increases academic performance in all areas of a child's school work.
Language learning is proven to give children better problem solving skills, better critical thinking skills, more creativity, better flexibility of mind and enhanced memory in addition to better multi-tasking abilities.
According to the University of Maine, studying a foreign language "strongly reinforces the core subject areas of reading, English language literacy, social studies and maths" and helps students "consistently outperform control groups on standardised tests".
It encourages their empathy with and awareness of other cultures
One of the things we strive for at the Marlow Language Centre, is to instil a true love of languages in our students and part of that derives from a passion for the culture it comes from.
Learners who study a language with the aim of better understanding a culture, language, and society are more internally motivated than those who study for the sole aim of passing a particular exam or getting acceptable grades at school.
Early foreign language study gives children a unique insight into other cultures and helps them to understand the similarities between themselves and "others".
Studies repeatedly show that the awareness of global community can be enhanced when children have the opportunity to get involved with another culture through a foreign language. For some, this gives them the opportunity to immerse themselves in a culture when they travel on holiday or relocate, or for others it's just becoming aware of a different culture through the interaction of our lessons.
Studying a language in depth – and in our lessons we go beyond what you'll find in a textbook – tells you a lot about the society and how the culture works, giving children an understanding, awareness and appreciation of cultures other than their own.
It helps them better understand English
It stands to reason that learning another language gives students a good understanding of the foreign tongue, but a less obvious benefit is the increased understanding of English itself.
Learning another language can enhance knowledge of English structure and vocabulary and children who learn foreign languages score higher in English vocabulary and reading skills as well. This is especially true when the foreign language has Latin roots – enhancing a child's understanding of how language itself works and their ability to manipulate language in their thinking and problem solving.
English is a language which has roots in many others so learning a foreign language will often give students an insight into how English developed, where words come from, and how grammatical structures work. For most of us, speaking English is innate – we speak it quite naturally without really knowing why or how we do so – so learning another language actually enhances understanding and study of our own.
It gives them confidence
In addition to the academic benefits already mentioned, language learning helps confidence and interpersonal relationships throughout a child's life. The ability to converse with confidence and panache in a foreign language can be an enormous confidence boost for a young person and as a result enhances their self-image, self-esteem and satisfaction at school. Evidence from several studies suggests that language students have a significantly higher self-awareness than non-language learners.
Speaking confidently opens up a whole new world to our children, allowing them to form friendships with people they otherwise wouldn't be able to communicate with and hearing stories they wouldn't normally hear.
We've had students who come to us to learn a specific language because they have a friend who speaks it and they want to be able to communicate in their mother tongue.
There is nothing that demonstrates more self-motivation, determination, self-discipline and the ability to concentrate than learning a language; and with that comes a massive increase in a child's self-esteem – as well as an improvement in their school grades and exam passes which naturally boosts confidence.
Giving your child the opportunity and support to develop a love of languages from a young age is one of the most important things you can do to help their development and give them a head-start in so many areas of their life.
Personal or group tuition at the Marlow Language Centre focuses on more than school league tables or just learning by rote to pass a particular exam, and as a result we give our students a wealth of benefits that come with a passion for learning languages.
Many of our students come to us because they are struggling with lessons at school or because they want to increase their academic grades. Of course we help them achieve these goals, and our students and parents are always thrilled by the tangible academic results we can give them, but exam results aren't the only benefit.
Seeing children develop not just in ability but also confidence, self-belief, cultural sensitivity and genuine motivation and passion for another language is the biggest and best reward of all.