Most P1 pupils in Scotland learn one foreign language, latest figures show

BBC – Staff Writer

“The majority of pupils in the first year of primary school are learning a foreign language…On a visit to Edinbarnet Primary School in West Dunbartonshire, Minister for Learning, Dr Alasdair Allan, said: “In today’s global, multi-cultural world it is more important than ever that young people have the opportunity to learn languages from an early age, to equip them with skills and competencies for the globalised economy. We want to ensure the enthusiasm for languages starts at an early stage in a child’s education.””(more)

Bilingual Kids Are Way Better At Thinking Outside The Rules

Co.exist – Charlie Sorrel

“Toddlers that are learning two languages are also learning another skill: how to look at problems in creative new ways. If they have experience switching between languages, then they’ll be even better. The key, says a new study, is this switching. Both bilingual and monolingual kids were studied at 24 months, and then again, seven months later, to asses their vocabularies. On the second occasion, the toddlers were also tested for a variety of factors. In general, there were few differences between the bilingual and monolingual kids, but in one area—conflict inhibition—the bilingual kids performed a lot better. Conflict inhibition is, in this case, the ability to disregard the rules you have learned.”(more)

At what age is it easiest to learn a second language?

The Conversation – Monika Schmid

“If you want to learn a foreign language, should you begin before a certain age in order to fully master it? Popular opinion holds that young children find it easier than adults because childhood is a “critical period” for language learning. It has been difficult to prove this, but new research published by my colleagues and me, using brainscans and innovative statistical methods, does indeed suggest that our capacity to learn a language diminishes gradually over our lives. The familiar mantra that children immersed in a language “soak it up like a sponge”, while adults apparently do not, is not in itself proof of the existence of a critical period for language learning. But it is both easier and more important for children to quickly become good in a second language they hear spoken around them.”(more)

How Music Helps Language Acquisition

Education Week – Jennifer Paterson

“If you think about it, the spoken word has a sort of musicality to it. The way we enunciate, our voice inflection, our word choices, and even the volume and speed at which we speak all have a musical effect. In the scholarly paper “Music and Early Language Acquisition,” researchers sought to prove that in order to speak, people must first have an understanding of music. The authors argue that spoken language should be described as “a special type of music.” By these standards, music is not a superfluous part of life at all; it is necessary to all communication between humans. The researchers go on to point out that our brains process language musically, so there is much to be said of studying music alongside language, and at a very young age.”(more)

Foreign concept: Why learning a second language is vital to our global future

Education HQ Australia – Rebecca Vukovic

” Many physiological studies have shown that the brains of bilingual people operate differently to single language speakers, and in fact, that learning a second language is a great asset to the cognitive process. Australia is one of the most multilingual societies in the world – the 2006 Census shows that more than 350 languages are in regular use in homes and workplaces around the country. Despite this, language learning in Australian schools translates to low completion rates in second languages, high rates of attrition from university language programs and a decline in the number of languages taught, their duration, spread and level of seriousness.”(more)

International school in Shanghai stresses importance of learning Chinese

The Global Times – Staff Writer

“An international school in Shanghai is using Chinese lunar new year as an occasion to highlight to its multicultural student body the importance of learning Putonghua. According to the school, it is crucial in today’s globalized society for every international student, regardless of their nationality, to become fluent in the common language of this rising superpower. Throughout the world, whether in fashion, technology, business or politics, China is showing its vast impact, and international schools in Shanghai want their graduates to be at the center of this global phenomenon. “China is becoming an economic and social leader in the world, so learning and understanding the Chinese language and culture is crucial for success in almost every future career,” explained Helena Hicks, director of Chinese Studies at Wellington College International Shanghai.”(more)