In recent years there has been a renewed effort to see foreign language teaching at primary school level, with ministers and education experts arguing for the need to expand provision. This is because learning another language at an early age brings numerous benefits to young learners in terms of their cognitive development and cultural awareness, while later in life language skills are seen as an increasingly valuable professional skill. But since many teachers, parents and students are concerned about the challenge of learning another language at such a young age, what are the specific benefits identified by those who passionately believe in their benefits?
First of all, it is a generally accepted fact that children learn languages more effectively than adults and older children because they have a greater capacity to absorb new vocabulary and grammatical concepts. They are also considered to be more receptive to language learning and possess a natural enthusiasm that older children with set habits and preferences lack. The primary school environment is also considered to be uniquely suited to the foreign language teaching process. Since primary school teachers are responsible for a class throughout the year, they can integrate additional language teaching into the teaching of other subjects, thereby contributing to a holistic approach to language learning. While it is recognized that many teachers currently lack the skills to pursue such an integrated approach, this does not alter the fact that primary education provides a uniquely supportive environment for the young language learner.
In terms of cognitive development, it has been reported that learning a second language helps children inhibit the retrieval of irrelevant information while increasing the focus with which they approach their learning. Additionally, some studies suggest that laying the foundations for language learning at an early age leads to more effective learning at secondary school, leading to greater proficiency and comfort in using the language. Although the evidence for this effect is inconclusive, it is true that introducing additional languages at an early age increases the child’s comfort and confidence with a second language, which may help overcome some of the fears experienced later.
Finally, language learning is valuable for its contribution to cultural awareness. Learning another language serves as a gateway to a new culture, helping to broaden horizons and improve children’s receptivity to new ideas and values. This kind of early intercultural understanding is an important feature in today’s globalized world. Mastering a foreign language is also a valuable skill that can improve career prospects later in life. Therefore, starting early could be just the right step to give children a helping hand on their path to future success.
In summary, it can be said that it is difficult to tackle foreign language teaching in primary schools. The educational, cultural, and economic benefits are such that children will benefit immeasurably from early exposure to a different way of speaking. While broader deployment comes with some challenges, the potential gains make this a goal worth pursuing.
Thanks to Hannah McCarthy | #Benefits #Learning #Languages #Primary #School