Your child is ready for preschool and you want the best for him or her. A subject that is often discussed among parents is whether to let their child learn to speak and write a few languages, namely English, Bahasa Malaysia and Mandarin.
Can a child able to learn multiple languages at preschool? Would they be over-stretch or would they adapt and result in a talented multilingual child being born.
Studies have shown that the best time for children to start learning languages is between 3 to 6 years old. This is also the time when your child starts preschool.
Learning a second or third language will be an educational advantage for your child, especially as they progress to primary school.
According to a study, it was shown that children who learn a second or third language are more likely to outperform their peers by seven years old.
But can your child learn multiple languages at preschool? Will it be too much for them to learn?
In this post, we will discuss if you should let your child learn multiple languages at preschool, briefly explain the methods used for language teaching and leave you with some tips to teach them at home.
Can a Child Learn Three Languages or Multiple Languages at Preschool?
While the national language in Malaysia is Bahasa Malaysia. Many parents want their children to master English and Mandarin too.
At a young age, it’s definitely possible for children to learn three languages. However, it is important to be consistent and not mix languages together when teaching them.
The key to learning multiple languages is to treat each language, English, Bahasa Malaysia and Mandarin as a whole, whenever it is taught.
For example, during a Bahasa Malaysia language class at Q-dees, students are encouraged to only speak Bahasa Malaysia, without mixing other languages like English or Mandarin.
Find out the language classes offered by the Q-dees preschool near you: https://www.q-dees.com/starters/find-a-centre
At Q-dees, the learning experience for children is further enhanced by teaching them to read, write and speak in different languages through engaging stories, word marathons, and fun activities.
Learn more about how Q-dees help children master languages.
Benefits of Encouraging Your Child to Learn Multiple Languages at Preschool
Let’s discuss some of the advantages to having your child learn multiple languages at preschool.
1. Enhance their brain activity.
Becoming bilingual has tons of cognitive benefits. According to research, children who speak more than one language can multitask more effectively and have a better attention span than monolinguals.
Exposing your child to a second or third language at an early age will help enhance their attention skills.
2. Boost their academic progress.
Another study by Millennium Cohort found that being bilingual provided many educational benefits. The study shows that learning multiple languages is a form of brain training, like a mental “work out” that fine-tunes the mind of children, eventually leading to academic excellence.
The way it does that is by helping them develop critical thinking and problem-solving skills, which are part of their academic foundation.
3. Cognitive development.
It’s no doubt that bilingualism sharpens young minds, and as such, parents are encouraged to make it the basis of their foundation. Bilingual children are better at learning and developing complex tasks.
Introducing your child to learning at least two languages at an early age will mean fostering their cognitive development.
4. Enhance empathy.
One of the significant benefits of being multilingual is becoming more open-minded and emphatic. Children exposed to a second or a third language will begin to appreciate other races in Malaysia, who might be using a certain language as their main communication.
By being multilingual, their communication boundaries are opened up, offering them a unique perspective towards different customs and people, among other things that might differ in their ways of life.
5. A head start to higher education.
Younger learners tend to learn faster than older learners because they aren’t held back by the fear of making mistakes. This also explains why adults usually find it a challenge to learn a new language.
In this sense, it is advantageous for your child to learn a few languages during their early childhood days, giving them a head start for better success during higher education.
How Do Preschools Teach Languages to Children?
As a parent, you probably want to know how preschools and kindergartens teach languages to children. Knowing this is useful, so you can continue to teach your child at home.
Let’s discuss them.
1. Listening skills
It starts with teaching children to listen with intent. Listening is an essential skill and must be developed at an early age. To become good communicators, children must learn to be good listeners as well.
Below are some ways to build your child’s listening skills:
a.) Build their vocabulary – While it’s common for children to get stuck with a language they don’t understand, you can help them build their vocabulary by reading along with them. Use books, charts, online programmes, and games to enhance their vocabulary in a specific language.
b.) Practise good listening skills – Children learn by imitating and modeling after people who look after them, so it’s important to be a good listener yourself too.
Show your child that you are listening to them when they talk and allow them to conclude everything they say without interrupting. Offer positive gestures like smiling and nodding to show your interest.
c.) Emphasise speech signals – When communicating with your child, emphasize speech signals to help them listen for essential words and emotions.
Use different intonations, pitch and stress levels in your speech to signal different types of moods and to maintain the interest of your child.
d.) Play listening games – Listening games help your child develop listening skills in a fun and productive way. A good idea is to encourage frequent listening games at home.
A fun example is to encourage your child to locate objects around your home by offering a two-part verbal instruction such as ‘Go to your room, and look for a ball’.
While listening skills are essential for your child to learn languages at a young age, you need to encourage them to speak as well.
2. Speaking skills
An important part of helping your child develop good language skills is to frequently communicate with them. This is where speaking skills comes in.
When you encourage your child to speak and communicate, you not only enhance their interaction skills with you, but also with other people around them.
Here are some ways you can help equip your child with excellent speaking skills:
a.) Reward their progress – As they learn to use different words and vocabulary to communicate, reward them for achieving the milestone. A milestone can be anything from your child being able to recite a speech to being able to mimic a personality.
The purpose of rewarding your child’s progress is not only to enhance their sense of pride but to also motivate them to improve their speaking skills.
b.) Develop a programme – Just like the language classes at preschool, children learn better when there is a learning plan set for them. Outline a list of speech objectives, such as learning new words or sentence structures, and use visual materials to make it a success.
Once your child picks up new words or sentences, follow through a plan that helps them to discover and learn more.
c.) Tell and read stories – Tell your child stories and encourage them to read stories by themselves as well. Because stories captivate the minds of young children, it also helps them remember words and speech patterns.
d.) Give constant feedback – While giving feedback is important, refrain from scolding or giving angry feedback to your child. Doing so only causes your child to dislike reading and speech practice, due to the fear of making mistakes and getting scolded.
Learn to be patient and give positive feedback. Children usually enhance their speaking skills by making mistakes and correcting them.
Fun Activities to Help Develop Language Learning in Children
We’ll leave you with some fun activity ideas that you can do at home to help your child further develop their language learning.
a.) Homonyms – Homonyms are two words that sound the same and spelled the same, but have different meanings. An example of a homonym is the word “book”.
A book can mean “something to read” or it could also mean “an act of making a reservation”. Engaging in this word playing activity acts as a brain teaser for your child to boost their listening and thinking skills.
b.) Riddles – Help your child read and interpret riddles from time to time, as this will help him or her jog their mind.
c.) Rhymes – Rhyming words helps boost your child’s memory and listening skills. Sit your child down and help them read and identify rhyming words. Then, you can even ask them to think of other rhyming words.
d.) Storytelling – While stories can be fun and entertaining, they also enhance your child’s communication skills and broadens their imagination. A good way to make storytelling activities more effective is to ask your child about what they’ve learnt at the end of the story.
e.) Complete the sentence – This is a fun activity where you start a sentence and allow your child to complete the sentence. This might seem like a simple activity, but it actually helps your child to learn how sentences are constructed.
Start Them Early and Allow Them To Learn Multiple Languages At Preschool
Children learn really quickly and are able to absorb better during their preschool years.
While you might be afraid of causing your child to mix up their languages if they were to learn a few languages at one time, the truth is they can adapt, depending on the language they are taught.
One thing to remember is to make sure to practise speaking and reading languages with your child as a whole, to avoid them mixing up the languages.
Other than that, we hope you encourage your child to pick up multiple languages and set them up for future success.