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Information for Parents: Foreign Language Acquisition

Written by Nicole Weaver



Would you like your child to learn a foreign language?  If your answer is yes, you might want to consider what the experts are saying about language acquisition.

A lot of parents are afraid to let their child learn a foreign language because of fear that a child will confuse the foreign language with their native language.

Janet Werker, psychologist from the University of British Columbia tested babies in Spain who were growing up learning to speak both Spanish and Catalan.  The babies were exposed to the two languages from birth.  Werker began the study by showing the babies videos of women speaking languages they’d never heard with the sound off. She measured attention span of the babies. She discovered that the tots could distinguish between English and French simply by watching the speakers’ facial expressions.

The same videos were shown to monolingual babies, but these babies couldn’t tell the difference between French and English. At the conclusion of the study, she stipulates that: Bilingual babies learn very early to pay attention better and that is why these babies did not confuse the two languages.

By simply speaking to infants in two languages allows them to learn both in the same amount of time it takes to learn one language.  A child’s brain exposed to two languages become more flexible and better at multitasking.

Ellen Bialystock, professor at York University in Toronto says: "It becomes far harder to learn a new language after puberty."   Most educators and scientist agree that adults' brains are bombarded with too many demands; consequently it is very difficult to give full attention to learning the same way a young child can.

Here are a few suggestions that might be helpful:

  • Check your local newspaper for native speakers who give foreign language lessons.  

  • If you want your child to learn French, see if there is an Alliance Française in your area. All lessons are taught by native speakers and the Alliance Française has a great reputation. 

  • Check out tapes and CDS from your local library.   

So, if you are a parent who is interested in having your child learn a foreign language, I highly encourage you to go for it.  





















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