Saturday, September 23, 2006


Research shows that children who study languages are more imaginative,
better with abstract ideas and more flexible in their thinking. Students
of foreign languages also score statistically higher on standardized
tests, such as the SAT. Consistently, students who have taken four or
more years of a foreign language have scored higher on the SAT's verbal
section than those who have studied four years of any other subject,
according to the College Entrance Examination Board. Later in life,
bilingual people have access to a greater number of career
possibilities, and develop a deeper understanding of their own and other
cultures. When children learn another language at a young age, writes
Kellie B. Gormly, they are more likely to acquire greater proficiency
and speak with near-native accents. While many of today's adults had to
wait until junior high to get solid instruction in a foreign language,
today's children have many more options that come a lot earlier. In
fact, experts say, the earlier children learn a language -- ideally, as
toddlers -- the better. Between ages 3 and 5, children are like
intuitive little sponges that can absorb up to five or even more
languages at a time, says Betsy Hanna, director of the regional Berlitz
Language Center in Robinson. Their small brains actually have the
ability to compartmentalize languages, too, so that learning a foreign
tongue doesn't inhibit a young child's developing English skills, Hanna
says. And unlike older children and adults -- who tend to learn a
foreign language by studying its grammar rules, thinking and practicing
carefully -- tots simply will develop an instinct for a language, just
like they do for their native English.

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