Education has always been a field of study, but even more so in the recent decades. Some studies focus on the learning process on a psychological aspect, wondering about how, where and when our brain is more predisposed to learning new things, like a language for instance.
The benefits of learning at a young age
It may never be too late to start learning another language, however, as this article from The Telegraph suggests, research has shown that it is better and easier to start at a younger age, even as early as three years old.
- First of all, learning a second language as a child boosts memory skills. At that age, the brain acts like a sponge, a very malleable material with great retentive powers. The more the brain is stimulated, the more it will remember, thus making it easier to learn something new.
- Then, it increases analytical and mathematical abilities, as learning two languages simultaneously will lead to implicit parallels between them, and comparisons. These constant back and forth movements will help the child reason at a higher level, become more logic, and more creative when it comes to problem-solving.
- Moreover, verbal skills are also improved with learning a second language before adolescence. As a more complete perception and understanding of structures and linguistic systems is granted by a bilingual education, researchers have been able to prove a significant advantage on monolingual children. Those who learn at least two languages are generally more articulate and fluent.
- Also, before the time of teenage-hood, the brain processes sounds in a much more effective way. This leads to better phonological skills, which means an ability to understand, recognize and decipher accents, but also to reproduce them. In other words, oral skills are greatly developed by an early exposure to a second language.
- Furthermore, children who have been gently brought to learn another language have shown more adaptability and reactivity, as their brain is more capable of switching between languages according to context and adapt depending on the situation.
- Finally, it is worth noting that globally speaking, children exposed to a foreign language as early as three years old perform at a higher level since more skills have been developed, and further than they would have been for a monolingual child. Better performances will most likely lead to more chances and opportunities later in life.
Of course, if there is a preferred time to start learning, there are also places or settings that will be more favourable to that task, and here is why.
The importance of a familiar setting
Teaching in a classroom is a very useful and necessary step to learn any new skill. Yet, one should not underestimate the power of teaching in a home-type setting, as this article from The Guardian explains.
- The first advantage of teaching in a home-type setting is the ability to be more flexible about what you do. Working from home has the advantage that you are not stuck in a school's policy, and therefore can be more centred on the students' needs. Plus, teaching at home and doing things that students like is more motivating for them, as they are not crushed by an institution either.
- As opposed to a classroom, teaching at home means having less students, and being able to provide more individualised care. It is also more interactive and reassuring for pupils than a classroom as it will feel much easier to ask a question in a small intimate group, rather than in front of a class full of students. The private context of a home allows for a more personal relationship where communication is re-established between the teacher and the students.
- In a place where you can feel at home, it is also possible, for students and the teacher as well, to be more spontaneous and natural, as you will have more freedom than in a classroom. Moreover, a classroom is a more confined and defined space than a house, where there is more space to evolve on a physical and mental level. Teaching outdoor on a sunny day can brighten up the mood and open to many more possibilities as the imagination can run wild. It also has the advantage of offering some places to retreat when a child needs to rest and play.
Overall, a home can be considered a reassuring context, a comfort zone in which you can evolve, a relaxing environment where kids are more at ease and where they can learn, but also still play, have fun and be children. It is common knowledge that a stressed brain with off-putting stimuli will be more frazzled and less efficient, as opposed to a stress-free brain which is more performing and happier.