The Best Age to Learn a Foreign Language

Benefits of Learning a Second Language at an Early Age

Some experts believe that it is better for children to begin learning a foreign language at primary schools rather than secondary schools. Do the advantages of this outweigh the disadvantages?

Some authorities think that it is more favourable for pupils to begin studying languages at primary school instead of secondary school. This essay will argue that the advantages of this outweigh the drawbacks. The essay will first demonstrate that the earlier someone learns an additional language, the more likely they are to master it and that it brings added cognitive benefits, followed by an analysis of how the primary disadvantage, namely confusion with their native tongue, is not valid.

The main reason to start kids off with foreign languages early is that this increases the likelihood they will achieve fluency in adulthood. That is to say that they will have far more years to perfect their skills, and speaking bilingually will seem perfectly normal. For example, in countries such as Holland and Norway, where English is taught from a very young age, most adults speak it at an advanced level. Learning a second language also helps to improve overall cognitive abilities. In other words, it benefits the overall development of a child’s brain. It is well known that bi-lingual children are significantly more likely to score higher in Mathematics and Science.

Those opposed to this say that it causes the child to become confused between their mother tongue and the other language. However, there is actually no evidence to support this view and children from bilingual families do just as well in both languages. My son was brought up speaking both Vietnamese and English and outperforms most of his classmates in both.

On balance, the fact that early foreign language learning leads to higher fluency and improved brain function clearly outweighs the flawed argument that it impairs the uptake of native languages.