It’s extremely rewarding to learn more than one language; but as you age, you find it more difficult to learn new languages. You have to undergo intensive learning for your brain to imbibe and adapt to them.
However, small children are generally proficient at learning languages. If they are naturally exposed to many languages, they will learn them all to some degree. A child can grow up learning 3-4 languages from very early childhood and not be confused by using them interchangeably.
Moreover, children aren’t afraid to make mistakes while learning. They are drawn by rhymes, songs, and strange words. When playing with languages, children listen to their sounds and unknowingly absorb rhythm, pronunciation, stress, and intonation.
Advantages of Multilingual Children
Language skills in young multilingual children vary with their language experiences. Social interaction shapes infants’ abilities in processing speech sounds.
Children who experience languages early on usually become native speakers of them. They learn languages with great speed, using phonemes and words. Phonemes are language sounds that distinguish between two languages.
Multilingual children also have the ability to change their language to match those that are spoken to them, which gives them a cognitive advantage. Their combined vocabulary of languages is greater than those of monolingual children. Unlike monolingual children, they are able to easily find words from one of the languages they know.
Children who speak languages that have different roots comprehend things better. They score higher on tests because language learning improves listening, observation, and analytical skills.
The executive control of the brains of multilingual children is far more enhanced than monolinguals–they are able to switch attention between things and solve problems more easily. Further, people who learn at least one more language than their native language are protected against the effects of cognitive decline and the onset of Alzheimer’s disease.
Language Learning in General
You can help your children learn multiple languages in many ways.
- Speak your native language at home when they are exposed to other languages outside.
- Expose them to multilingual environments.
- Be positive towards other languages and cultures.
- Let them play with children who speak other languages.
- Read or tell stories in other languages.
- Provide fun and interactive language-learning tools and environments, such as movies, music, and games.
Robots as Language-Learning Mentors
One of the latest, most interesting language-learning devices is the social robot. Social robots are autonomous mobile machines that can interact with you and exhibit social behaviors, such as recognizing, following and helping you, and engaging in conversation. They have been used to teach science, mathematics, social skills, computer programming, and languages.
Robots can play a valuable role in vocabulary learning, improving speech patterns, storytelling, pronunciation, and even sign language. For example, the language teaching and companion robot Roybi not only helps in improving vocabulary and phrases but also in developing meaningful communication skills.
Children enjoy learning languages with a robot as they are undemanding, non-judgmental companions. Humanoid robots, who can mimic the facial, gestural and vocal expressions of human beings, make children feel comfortable.
They can also be adaptive–their sensors help them detect children’s needs and adjust their behavior accordingly. For example, Roybi can analyze children’s speech and responds to their emotional cues and needs in any one of more than 15 languages.
Children are unaware that they are constantly learning through their senses, connecting what they see, hear, smell, taste and touch. If you expose them to many languages at an early age, they will be able to tap into their natural learning ability. However, you should remember that the method or tool you choose for their language exposure and learning is of great importance.