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Children aged 7 are to learn languages in schools from 2014? About time too!

May 7th, 2013 by Fiona

There has been overwhelming support for Michael Gove, the Education Secretary, who made the decision last summer to make foreign languages compulsory for all children aged seven from September 2014. Languages such as French, German, Spanish, Mandarin and Greek will be taught in primary schools as part of the National Curriculum. A UK government report last year found that high-performing European schools had started teaching foreign languages at a much earlier age than UK state schools. A major study of foreign language skills among teenagers in Europe placed England at the bottom of the table - particularly worrying in today's increasingly international global economy where foreign languages will be essential for the economic future of our country.

Education Minister Elizabeth Truss sums this up: "We must give young people the opportunities they need to compete in a global jobs market - fluency in a foreign language will now be another asset our school leavers and graduates will be able to boast."

Many adults wish they had started learning a language as a child when their brains were more able to absorb new information. Scientific research has proven that when we are young our brains are programmed to pick up new languages more easily. Babies and children are like sponges and absorb everything they see and hear.

Human sponges

From about 9 months old babies start to "tune in" to the language they are hear most often. No matter what country a child is born into, they will automatically pick up the language they hear. Learning remains at a high level until the age of 7, therefore if you start to introduce your child to a new language before this age, they will learn another language more naturally and find it easier to become bilingual in the future.

In conclusion, it is clear that the earlier a child is exposed to a foreign language the better. A further benefit for children who start learning foreign languages early is that it helps them improve their conversation skills and literacy in their first language. Research has also shown that children who know a second language are more confident and perform better across all academic subjects. It cannot be denied that learning a language from a young age will greatly benefit children later on and many more opportunities will be available to them in the future.

Fiona specialises in Spanish tuition and her profile can be found here.

Categories: News, Schools