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Should children be taught foreign languages from a young age?

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    (Original post by Shadowplay)
    I'm a linguist fairly knowledgeable on these things. Learning a second language DOES NOT hinder you in any way, it actually gives children an advantage in learning to read, an advantage in their intelligence, and higher test scores on standardised tests (yes, even maths!). It's bilingualism I'm talking about, not just simple lessons once a week in school. A child must be completely immersed in language in order to benefit from it, so creating a native-like environment in the classroom is a must, which means no "apple is la manzana" stuff, just pure communication in a foreign language.
    How on earth do you propose that could implemented? You would have to remove time spent on core topics to make room in the timetable to do this which just isn't feasible as it stands.
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    (Original post by Joe-89)
    I was speaking to my cousin (who has two young daughters) the other day, and he was saying that he didn't like how the kids' program "Dora the Explorer" introduces children to Spanish at an early age. He said that he felt it was more important for kids to get a thorough grasp on English before they start to learn another language.

    I agree with him to an extent, but aren't young children supposed to be really good at picking up other languages? I also think that it's a bit sad that so many of us in this country are unable to speak anything other than English, when in many countries it's the norm to be fluent in two, three or even more languages.

    I know that by the time I left primary school (back in 2001...I'm so old ) the only foreign language teaching we'd received was a handful of casual Spanish lessons which began in year 6 and only took place once every couple of weeks. Also, at my secondary school at least, it wasn't compulsory to take a foreign language beyond year 9. Not sure if it's different now, though.

    Does our education system take foreign languages seriously enough? Is English enough these days or are we slightly out of touch with Europe and the rest of the world in general? Would children benefit from being taught, for example, French, German or Spanish, from the beginning of primary school? Would you also like to see more "alien" (though globally important) languages introduced? Chinese? Arabic?
    Of course they should be taught languages such as Mandarin, Arabic, Spanish, Portuguese, Hindi. I'm not sure why this wasn't done over the past 10 years.

    Many children in Europe are basically bilingual by the age of 16. If many British kids are not, then they may not be as competitive when it comes to being employed abroad - given the freedom of movement in the EU they will face alot of competition in their home market too given the numbers of bilingual kids in Europe.
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    (Original post by RollerBall)
    How on earth do you propose that could implemented? You would have to remove time spent on core topics to make room in the timetable to do this which just isn't feasible as it stands.
    I don't need to propose anything, it's been done before :rolleyes:
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Language_immersion

    Besides, I've studied three (yes, three!) foreign languages beside my mother tongue during my school years and I know my integrations, derivatives, limits, trigonometric functions just as everyone else does. Forgot to mention that I come from a European country with high standards in education, so if we can make it, the UK can. The standards in foreign languages are just too low here.

    And it seems to me that you're making up for your lack of language knowledge by being all defensive about it.
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    (Original post by RollerBall)
    How on earth do you propose that could implemented? You would have to remove time spent on core topics to make room in the timetable to do this which just isn't feasible as it stands.
    Language immersion schools are quite common in other countries, and I think there are a few in the UK. French immersion is offered by many Canadian schools (in English-speaking provinces), I believe. I don't know much about them or how much learning of subjects suffers at first, but I'm guessing after a year of being immersed in French the children are pretty much fluent and it makes little difference if they are taught, say, history, in English or French.
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    Your cousin is completely wrong, the prevailing wisdom is that kids should learn a language as early as possible. I would make them all learn Chinese. The fact that it takes a good 10 years to learn all the characters makes it a strong candidate for starting early. Or Arabic.

    This would actually allow for some lessons later on to be delivered in the second language as happens in Europe with English.

    English language lessons should also be more grammar-oriented so kids are familiar with the concept when they encounter it in foreign languages. For some reason teachers are scared to use words like participle and relative clause. Because grammar is the toughest bit of foreign languages for most kids and it's even harder when it's all foreign words.
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    Yes, I think children should learn a language from an early age. I wish I could speak another language as well as English. In many other countries, children can speak English from early ages.
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    Little kids' brains are like sponges - they pick up languages so easily, it's much more difficult when you're older. For that reason + the fact that not enough people are studying languages, lead me to say that yes, children should definitely study languages at a young age. It's such a valuable skill to have!
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    (Original post by Joe-89)
    The fact that you personally didn't enjoy it or succeed at it doesn't mean that it shouldn't be taught. Would you also say that schools shouldn't force people to learn maths (unless of course one of their parents has a starred first in mathematics from Cambridge)?

    I'm not saying that learning languages is as important as learning maths, but according to your logic a subject should be dismissed as unimportant and worthless just because some pupils don't enjoy it.
    no, its the fact that i couldn't say that i didn't enjoy it when i was being taught it at a young age, i was forced to do it. it's the same with maths, except i wasn't taught maths at the age of 2..i was taught simple numbers rather than a whole language before i had any sort of grasp on whats going on..
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    (Original post by Jcon1)
    no, its the fact that i couldn't say that i didn't enjoy it when i was being taught it at a young age, i was forced to do it. it's the same with maths, except i wasn't taught maths at the age of 2..i was taught simple numbers rather than a whole language before i had any sort of grasp on whats going on..
    You were forced to learn "a whole language" though; you learnt English, didn't you? As a little child you pick up any language as easily as English if you're exposed to it enough. As an adult/teenager, learning a language can be daunting and difficult, but it really isn't for young children.

    I'd have loved to have had exposure to a few more languages when I was younger. It's like a free language for later life!
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    Yes. Languages here should be taught in the same manner that English is taught in places like the Netherlands and Scandenavia, so that it pretty much becomes a language that they're more or less as fluent in as their mother tongue.

    Even though it's the English media influence probably helps the most in those places, there should be more media here that can be accessed easily to help one learn a language i.e if there was more media like Wallender here and cartoons that were in different languages it would probably help a lot. A language is easier to learn when it's all around you rather than taught to you by some book or computer application.
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    (Original post by Jcon1)
    no, its the fact that i couldn't say that i didn't enjoy it when i was being taught it at a young age, i was forced to do it. it's the same with maths, except i wasn't taught maths at the age of 2..i was taught simple numbers rather than a whole language before i had any sort of grasp on whats going on..
    If you genuinely weren't able to say "je ne veux pas apprendre le francais", the person who forced you clearly wasn't very forceful

    Joking aside though, were you actually forced to do actual work on it though or was it simply a case of your parents speaking to you in French?

    Either way, I don't see how your experience has anything to do with teaching languages in schools. And I wish that someone had forced me to learn French when I was young
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    (Original post by DrunkenMaster)
    Deffo. British/English speaking kids are allready disadvantaged because of this. Its the schools cutting back on languages-have been for the past 15 years.
    Cannot express enough how much I agree with you. I would say start a language between the ages of 6 and 8 would be the best hope for them.
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    (Original post by gagaslilmonsteruk)
    Cannot express enough how much I agree with you. I would say start a language between the ages of 6 and 8 would be the best hope for them.
    I think it would be even better if they did shows like Peppa Pig and these other shows for toddlers in Spanish/some language that isn't English, and continue from there with more complicated cartoons but keep them in the same languages so that they can develop in the same way that your mother tongue is developed.
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    I'm an avid supporter of being taught languages from a relatively young age. Here in Belgium we are taught French from primary school and later on English and German (Spanish optional). Being fluent in multiple languages has helped me a lot during the past few years (travelling, traineeships, papers) also it makes you more valuable for future employees and might give you that edge over another person when trying to land a job. In other words, can't start early enough with languages!
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    (Original post by No Man)
    I think it would be even better if they did shows like Peppa Pig and these other shows for toddlers in Spanish/some language that isn't English.
    True. Tots TV used to do basic French though (in the US version Tilly is Spanish instead).

    And although it's not abroad, Welsh has many variants of popular shows such as Sam Tan (the original version of Fireman Sam), and there is a welsh version of Bob the builder. Bob L'Éponge is the French Spongebob Squarepants too.
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    I think they should be taught languages from a young age, because it just seems like such a waste of ability not to. Children pick up languages so easily without needing to be geniuses to do it.
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    I'd say start learning at 6, but to incorporate it gradually. Maybe start learning French at first, and do one or 2 weekly lessons, or perhaps integrate learning into English lessons so that once you've learned a bit of grammar/vocab in English, and are relatively comfortable with using it, you can then learn it in the foreign language.

    So what words will children probably know by age 6?

    Articles ("the" etc)
    Physical traits ("hair"/"eyes")
    Weather ("sun"/"rain")
    Food/Drink ("biscuit"/"orange")

    All of these words and their French equivalent could be put up around the classroom or something, and be used in games. A 6 year old child has a vast vocabulary already, there's so much you could teach them at that age, and I believe it would actually help them with their English as well.
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    (Original post by HpFreak_Amy7192)
    Food/Drink ("biscuit"/"orange")
    Fairly useless, as both are exactly the same in French

    I agree that 6 is probably a good age to start, but I think it'd be better for them to develop a sense of the structure and grammar of the language rather than just vocabulary.

    Particularly with French, an English speaker can often "guess" their way through vocabulary once they have a grasp of the language and its structure, as well as a sense of which English words are likely to be of French origin (as so many English words are).
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    (Original post by gagaslilmonsteruk)
    True. Tots TV used to do basic French though (in the US version Tilly is Spanish instead).

    And although it's not abroad, Welsh has many variants of popular shows such as Sam Tan (the original version of Fireman Sam), and there is a welsh version of Bob the builder. Bob L'Éponge is the French Spongebob Squarepants too.
    It should be more concentrated/intense than the French in Tots TV imo, so instead of just touching on the language the whole shows should be in French/Spanish/some other language, like Sam Tan, since that's often how it is done abroad with English or other languages. A kid that's 2-5 etc doesn't have to be taught in a language to learn it, just immersed in it. A child at that age is still underdeveloped enough to understand it the same way as an English/mother tongue show, based on what I can remember from my experiances living abroad at a simillar age.
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    I think it's a great idea to start learning languages earlier. I just wish I could have! I think being 11 is really too late. It might also stop us English being so lazy and expecting everyone else to put in the effort.

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