Language Learning

Language learning is a fascinating and complicated topic. There is a lot of current research in the field, studying everything from the brain to best classroom practices.

Language Learning Benefits and Trends

A Cognitive Boost
Learning another language supports memory, brain elasticity, problem solving and more. While studies do not always agree on what the specific benefits are, they do agree that the benefits are numerous! Learn more at ACTFL.

Academic Advantages
Foreign language study is correlated with academic pursuits from reading level to standardized test scores. It gives students a new perspective and enables them to look at the same thing from various angles, thus supporting critical thinking skills. Learn more at ACTFL.

Cultural Intelligence
Having a solid understanding of other cultures, and the tools to learn about them, is an increasingly important skill in today’s interconnected world. Research shows that learning a foreign language is an excellent way to foster cultural intelligence, as children who know more than one language understand communication and culture.  There’s a time around puberty when children turn away from what’s different.  We’re helping make languages, cultures and the world a part of their inside circle, and raising them to be compassionate young global citizens.

Young Learners

0-4 years
Children’s brains are primed to acquire language.  Between 0 and 4 years of age they focus first on sounds, then syntax and vocabulary acquisition.  It happens naturally!  Babies growing up in Switzerland in a multi-lingual environment acquire several languages.  But we know that even small amounts of second language exposure can change the brain, and that it’s important that the language comes from in-person interactions, such as immersion classes!

Elementary years
For elementary school students, the research emphasizes the benefits of starting young.  Those who have language in elementary school are 70% more likely to reach proficiency than those who don’t start until high school – learn more from CASLS. Tremendous benefits also include higher standardized test scores, more creative thinking, and native-sounding pronunciation.  Children who learn a second language young are prepared for their third and fourth languages, too.

Language Acquisition Research

The Linguistic Genius of Babies
Dr. Patricia Kuhl’s work on early learning and brain development inspired the creation of Sponge.  Her TED talk is must see for parents of babies and young children! Kuhl’s talk is just the tip of the iceberg! You can explore additional articles and research papers in her list of publications, made available by the University of Washington’s Institute for Learning and Brain Science (I-LABS).

The Critical Period
Also called the “sensitive” period, it serves as an explanation for why young kids are so much better at language learning than adults. It’s important to learn about, and a great place to start is What Every Parent Needs to Know About Critical Periods. You can also dive into the research, and explore some of the resources on this list of studies and articles from the Center for Applied Linguistics.

Learning by Immersion
The top research in language acquisition and pedagogy points to immersion practices. While it can be challenging to implement well, it is far and away the method of choice at Sponge, and other leaders in the field. If you’re interested to learn about the research behind it, The University of Minnesota’s Center for Advanced Research on Language Acquisition (CARLA) has an excellent FAQ and a short article titled What the Research Says about Immersion.

The 5 C’s
One of the big questions you should ask of every language program, is what do you teach? The 5 C’s of Foreign Language Education are the national learning standards, and should be a part of every student’s experience. The 5 C’s stand for communication, cultures, connections, comparisons, and communities. Learning a language requires skill in each of these ares. We adapt them for each age group we teach at Sponge.

Three Types of Bilingual Brains

It’s obvious that knowing more than one language can make certain things easier — like traveling or watching movies without subtitles. But are there other advantages to having a bilingual (or multilingual) brain? Mia Nacamulli details the three types of bilingual brains and shows how knowing more than one language keeps your brain healthy, complex and actively engaged.

Sponge Resources

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