How do children learn English? Why does an adult not assimilate the language at the same rate as children do? These questions have to do with children’s learning capacity and the advantages of the youngest children to memorize the basics of the language.
The answer is that from the age of two to six, our brains are better prepared to synthesize and put into practice a language that is new to us. From the age of 11-12, this ability deteriorates into adulthood. The reason why it is important for children to learn at least two languages has to do with their capacity for this type of learning. A child in kindergarten or primary school who learns two languages will be able to interpret them at the same level, without the effort required for this type of learning during adulthood.
At Lady Elizabeth School we have developed a bilingual teaching program, which allows our students to develop their abilities through language learning. Our students assimilate the linguistic structures of English at the same rate at which they learn their native language, so learning is lifelong
Brain activity and language learning
The reason a child is able to understand an entire language in its early years has to do with a biological advantage. The brain of a human being works constantly, our intellectual activity never rests, not even when we are asleep, however, the brain rhythm is much faster during our first years of life, in fact it is estimated that during the first twelve months the brain works at a speed up to three times faster than during adult life.
It is precisely this brain activity that makes a child learn a language immediately, compared to the effort we adults must make to learn a language.
Environment and predisposition are also important in the case of children. During their early years, a child is predisposed to learning and everything around them is an opportunity to learn something new. During the first 3 years of our life, the brain tries to capture all possible stimuli in order to memorize them, language is one of these stimuli and it has to do with the possibility of remembering, of communicating, of being part of a group formed by other people. The brain, therefore, is predisposed to carry out this learning, which is completed in an amazing period of time.
Methods for learning English with children
Although the brain is naturally prepared to understand and handle language, methods for learning English with children will stimulate their abilities, especially if they are learning a second language.
At what age to start learning English with children, at the same age they start learning their native language. At about two years of age, a child begins to learn the meanings of certain words, and at this stage we can include English terms that he or she will naturally relate to concepts. If we use didactic methods that stimulate his imagination, we can get him to handle both languages in a natural way.
The following are some methods to get a child in kindergarten or primary school to understand two different languages, stimulating their linguistic abilities.
Stories to learn English with children
Stories stimulate their imagination; when a child listens to a story, he or she is imagining the narrative in detail.
Stories in several languages allow the child to naturally assimilate the vocabulary of each story. Without making any effort, the child listens to the story and develops a story of his own through language. Through stories in both languages we get his brain capacity to adapt in the same way to both languages.
Songs are also a particularly suitable method for a child to get used to hearing at least two languages, and to perceive them as something common.
Nowadays, there are many different ways for a child to listen to songs in English, and if he or she also listens to songs in Spanish, he or she can begin to distinguish the phonemes of each language, an activity that is much easier for a child than for an adult.
Play & learn
Games in English are also synonymous with learning. To develop their abilities it is not necessary to learn a large vocabulary, simply by introducing some concepts in English, the child will recognize that they are different from Spanish, but they will memorize them just as quickly.
The games not only stimulate their motor skills and the development of their senses, they will also be an opportunity to improve their language skills through playful activities.
Activities involving multimedia content are also a great help when it comes to helping them learn a language. If we add content in English adapted to their age to the audiovisual content they usually watch, we will be encouraging the learning of this language, moreover, this learning will not require any effort, since the brain of a child is able to memorize vocabulary and lexical structures automatically.
Lady Elizabeth School, british school in Alicante
Lady Elizabeth School is a british school with a particular educational approach. Our school programs not only include the learning of a second language, but also use English as a vehicular language, basing our education on the British methodology. Our students enjoy a completely immersive experience throughout their academic period, a learning process that begins in infant school.
The capacity for language learning is much greater during the first years of our lives, our language teaching process takes advantage of this early ability, so that our students develop their full potential, the result is a lifelong learning and a natural use of the language from the first years of kindergarten.