By Caroline D. Tirona, Library Aide, Dolley Madison Library
Did you know there are many advantages for a child to learn a language in addition to their native language? Along with the benefits experienced later in life, it has been proven that learning a new language in their early years helps children grow cognitively and emotionally.
Grace Chen’s article for the Public School Review, “Benefits of Foreign Language Education,” states that learning a second language helps children develop a deeper understanding, familiarity and openness with different cultures. It also improves a child’s social engagement skills and provides tools and abilities to better communicate with others.
Dual language learning can also help children strengthen interpersonal connections, especially in multilingual families. For example, when grandparents from another country, who don’t understand English, visit family in the U.S., the grandchild can interpret for them and use their learned language to better communicate and connect with their elders.
Learning a second language can also help a child with their first language. According to the website Lead with Languages, dual language learning improves a child’s ability to focus, helps with word pronunciation and teaches bidirectional meaning. When a child is learning words in a second language, it cognitively teaches their brain to sort words with different pronunciations and spelling, but still recognize that they have the same meaning.
According to Parents.com, the best time for children to start learning a new language is between ages 3 and 4. Parents and caregivers can start children on this journey by exposing them to other languages as toddlers and one of the best places to do this is at the local library. Fairfax County Public Library (FCPL) has a wide selection of bilingual picture books available for checkout that caregivers can use to introduce a second language in their homes. The library also offers a collection of read-along books, which come equipped with a built-in speaker that can play an audio version of the book in English, Spanish or Chinese.
One of the most unique library resources that can help expose young children to other languages is FCPL’s bilingual storytimes. Currently, the library offers storytimes in English, Spanish, Korean and Hindi led by staff and volunteers who fluently speak the language being read. Learn more about the different bilingual storytimes offered at bit.ly/BilingualStorytimes.