Reflections on the various dimensions of feminine vocation from liturgical homemaking and child rearing to education and the spiritual life.

Thursday, October 21, 2010

More About Early Language Acquisition

I don't think it is controversial to acknowledge that the Unites States is way behind Europe, Canada, and other developed countries in teaching and learning world (or "foreign") languages. One major way we go wrong is by leaving out world language education until the high school years.

There is a plethora of research verifying the observation that second (and third, etc.) language acquisition in the early elementary grades carries clear multifaceted benefit for students and society. Here are few general points summarized from the research:

Students who begin learning a second language early, namely, by third grade, show greater learning proficiency across subject areas and disciplines, and especially in basic English-language skills, because language learning enhances cognitive development overall and because literacy and thinking skills transfer from one language to another. Students also gain exposure to other cultures and people groups. Additionally, young students are ripe for language learning as research indicates the greatest plasticity in children's brains before the age of ten. (See Lipton 2003.*)

Society benefits from a multi-lingual populace, not only from the enhanced cognitive development and appropriate cultural sensitivity of multi-lingual individuals, but also from the advantages accrued to business and national security. Those who wish to advance the national good through government service in areas such as intelligence, diplomacy, or the armed forces can meet an acute, chronic need by acquiring second language proficiency, especially in certain "less commonly taught languages" (LCTLs). (See Malone, Rifkin, Christian, & Johnson, 2005.)

Minority groups also benefit when their mother tongue is preserved. Preserving such heritage languages seems similar to preserving fine art or archeological artifacts. As mentioned in the previous post, Greek is the special heritage group of the Christian Church, as are Hebrew and Latin.

Language is one of the highest and most complex of man's creative productions in which he images his Creator, the pre-existent Word. How will you incorporate secondary language development in your child's education?

1 comment:

  1. I love hearing you talk about education Jen, and I've been waiting many years for a post on "WHY we are chosing to homeschool." Or maybe that will be a series of posts. What is the biggest factor leading to this decision?

    Regarding education, as you know we are blessed having two language speakers. However, at an early age it doesn't feel like a blessing. Neither of us are the most verbal people to begin with, and I have nightmares of Thanos needing a speech therapist from an early age. At 16 months we jabbers a lot, but still has only a few recognizable words. It is confusing to us. At l9 months, he has saying "all done" and at 12 months he was understanding and following two step commands, but the number of recognizable words is still quite limited. I think it will take him a while to sort everything out. The other day Yiannis was laughing because I was getting frustrated that he wasn't saying "quack quack" when asked what a duck says (which he has said before). According to Yiannis he was saying, "pa pa" the Greek redition of quack quack. Who knows!?

    As far as early elementary school, if we are in America then we'll have to do some formal Greek language lessons (probably from dad). If in Greece then I get to homseschool at least English :). I think in schools in Greece starting early on the kids can chose between English or French (and perhaps German). I think it would be good to introduce a third language. If not in early elementary, sometime not too late.

    Cheerio, Elisabeth