There is strong evidence that people who are bilingual have stronger communication and cognitive skills. Being bilingual gives the brain a good workout, enabling an individual to focus for longer and retain information more effectively. Learning a language develops confidence in speaking and listening skills. It helps us to understand our own language and culture whilst at the same time developing an awareness of the world. These advantages can also be developed by learning a second language.
The main advantage of learning a language at an early age is confidence. Young children learn their own language extremely quickly, constantly exploring, playing and mimicking words. Learning a language can be a rewarding whole family activity. A child who is learning alongside an adult, frequently experiences good role modelling in perseverance. Learning together can also be an opportunity to share strategies.
The internet has many free resources and materials that can support your child, and you, in learning a second language. Songs, poems, rhymes, TV programmes and stories in other languages which can develop listening, speaking and comprehension skills are easily found on you tube and other search engines. Many of these will include sub-titles and may be familiar to your child. There are also good Apps which can be downloaded for free.
Use post-its and flashcards to learn everyday words and phrases; you may wish to label objects around the house or create a treasure hunt with the words. The flash cards can be used to play matching games such as snap. Flashcards can be created by you and your child, using magazines or by drawing your own images.
Another activity to develop language skills is to create your own shop, recycling food packaging, etc. Playing shop is a fun way to practice vocabulary and counting; it also develops mathematical skills.
In our increasingly globalised society, the benefits of speaking other languages are invaluable. This is perhaps best expressed in the words of Nelson Mandela;
"If you talk to a man in a language he understands, that goes to his head. If you talk to him in his own language that goes to his heart."