Benefits of Early Bilingualism
Infants have the innate ability to learn multiple languages. According to research by expert Linda Espinosa, Professor Emeritus at the University of Missouri at Columbia, the early years are an ideal time to acquire multiple languages. (Espinosa, 2015)
Her research demonstrates when young children are exposed to a secondary language at an early age – no matter how short the experience and no matter the pairs of languages involved – there are observable neural changes in the way in which language is organized in the child’s brain. Children as young as seven months, demonstrate higher cognitive functioning along with “mental flexibility” when moving between tasks. This ability allows the child to maintain attention while processing speech (an executive functioning skill essential to school readiness). As children grow, these abilities become even more pronounced, especially in activities which require children to divide their attention between tasks. (Espinosa, 2015)
Additionally, a 2013 study provided evidence supporting increased cognitive, linguistic, and social-emotional advantages for bilingual preschoolers when compared to their monolingual peers (Magruder, 2013).
For this reason, among many others, Stepping Stone School creates an environment rich in English, Spanish and American Sign Language (ASL). Each classroom’s learning center shelves are labeled in English and Spanish with visual hand signs for ASL. Bilingual books, toys and learning tools are found throughout the classroom. Posters and displays promote English, Spanish, and ASL vocabulary learning.
Through Dual Language Learning, an important part of our Platinum Learning for Life Curriculum ™, children are introduced to at least one new ASL sign and Spanish vocabulary word each week as a part of our committed focus on language development activities. As children move through our program, the number of words learned each week increases per age group. By the time children reach advanced pre-kindergarten, they are completing at least one daily activity in both English and Spanish.
Dual language activities are planned and instruction provided as we introduce children to multiple languages. These efforts are made in order to provide the children at our schools with the best in early childhood education and practice based on research and over thirty five years of experience.
Espinosa, L. (2015). Challenges and Benefits of Early Bilingualism in the United States’ Context. Retrieved on March 31, 2017 from http://files.eric.ed.gov/fulltext/EJ1055271.pdf
- Magruder, W.Hayslip, L. Espinosa and C. Matera. (2013). Many Languages, One Teacher: Supporting Language and Literacy Development for Preschool Dual Language Learners. Retrieved on March 31, 2017 from http://www.naeyc.org/yc/article/many_languages_one_teacher_magruder.
Marian, V. (2012). The Cognitive Benefits of Being Bilingual. Retrieved on March 31, 2017 from http://dana.org/Cerebrum/2012/The_Cognitive_Benefits_of_Being_Bilingual/