Ruth and I are routinely asked by parents with toddlers, Pre-K & Kinder students, who are concerned about the “negative” impacts of their children being exposed to multiple languages too early. While these concerns are valid current research actually supports very early exposure to multiple languages and shows positive impact on neurological development. Babies actually seem to have an amazing capacity to adapt and recognize pattern and show accelerated cognitive skills very early on.
Today I read an article from the Seattle Times that underscores this point.
What I found even more intriguing is that research is supporting the idea that language learning happens in a social setting, ie, a class room or between groups of people. Put babies in front of TV or even recorded langauge and they learn nothing. Dr. Patricia Kuhl, co-director of the Institute for Learning and Brain Sciences at the University of Washington, a leading researcher on the formation of language in babies was referenced in the Seattle Times article:
“Previous research by her group showed that exposing English-language infants in Seattle to someone speaking to them in Mandarin helped those babies preserve the ability to discriminate Chinese language sounds, but when the same “dose” of Mandarin was delivered by a television program or an audiotape, the babies learned nothing.
“This special mapping that babies seem to do with language happens in a social setting,” Kuhl said. “They need to be face to face, interacting with other people. The brain is turned on in a unique way.”
If you are a parent and have concerns about multiple language exposure with your child please consider what current research is showing. You may be providing them a great opportunity to advance their cognitive and language development skills during a very short window of time.
To read the full Seattle Times article click HERE.