Tuesday, July 16, 2013

Learning a second language before speaking

There is no minimum age to begin to delve into the linguistic richness of a second language. According to scientific evidence, the sooner you hear the new language, the better. From birth would be more advisable. Advantages for the growing infant are it would be easier for them to speak the language; it will help in concentration and even delay Alzheimer's.

The brain of the early born is like a blank journal. If we wait to have all the pages written to learn another language, there will not be enough space remaining and we will have to write on the side, said Jose Antonio Portellano, neuropsychologist and professor at the Faculty of Psychology of the Universidad Complutense de Madrid. This is a perfect metaphor to understand that "the earlier you learn a new language, the more effective it is," he stresses.

This is due to neuroplasticity (ability of the brain and the nervous system to adapt itself to changes), namely, "the reverse plasticity rule: the younger you are, the more ability to learn in general and, therefore, the less it costs to assimilate a new language". The cognitive flexibility is not the same depending on the age

This theory is supported by the scientific literature, in which as quoted by Portellano "we couldn’t find a single drawback associated with early learning of a second language. Quite the opposite, we have seen that it makes a person smarter. Not because it increases the number of neurons but because it improves neuronal connections, the quality of the circuits and cerebral density. All this helps the brain to build itself better. There is more of myelin (a substance that protects the axons), and the learning is more fluid. "

It changes the structure of the brain and this positively affects memory, attention ability and delays dementia. According to a study published in the journal “Neurology”, being bilingual can delay Alzheimer up to four or five years. Furthermore, those who handle several languages use more brain areas, are accustomed to exercising the brain and move with more ease when performing different tasks at once.

Ultimately, neuropsychologists recommend starting as soon as possible the immersion in a second language. Some claim that the benefits can begin even before birth, in the womb of the mother. Whether or not this is the case, the truth is that neuropsychologists recommend taking advantage "from time zero".

It is not enough to put only the cartoons in another language, there must be another element of support: family or day-care. The new language has to 'coexist' naturally with the young child, ie,  some songs are sung in English, others have to be hummed in the other language, and stories also have to be read in that language. Parents should, as well as speak in the native language, also use this second language."

When learning starts from time zero, since everything is yet to build into the brain, it shows in phonology, ie a person gets an accent that is more original. Although the benefits are numerous, the problem is that parents who do not know another language feel it is difficult to make the new language an element in the home. However, they have other options, such as television with the various language learning programs, day-care with or even a foreign nanny. The important thing, stresses Portellano, is not to rush learning with academic rules. This can come later. Instead enjoy the freedom of conversing and expressing oneself while learning the joys of a second language.

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