Friday, February 22, 2013

Don't miss this window of opportunity!

Experience has taught me that there are many parents of young children who are already worried about SAT scores and college admissions. Some of you may find you way to this blog. This post is for you.
Scientists theorize that our brains are wired to learn certain things most efficiently at certain times.  For example, you may have heard that foreign languages are best learned before adolescence.  This is often used as an argument to expand foreign language instruction in elementary and middle schools. There are possibly other critical periods for learning as well.

Some of these learning “windows of opportunity” are open quite early. For example, in order to be able to hear certain language sounds, infants should be exposed to them by age six months.  One of the challenges in learning a foreign language as an adult is the inability to distinguish between similar sounds used by native speakers of the language. Chinese adults learning English struggle with the “r” sounds because they cannot distinguish them from the “l” sounds.  Some companies are trying to capitalize on this by selling CD’s of lullabies sung in a variety of languages so that babies can be exposed to a variety of foreign language sounds.

Whether or not you choose to expose your infant to the sounds of another language, you should talk to your baby early and often! Language acquisition is one of the most important tasks of early childhood.  When children enter Kindergarten there is a huge gap between the children with the largest vocabularies and those with the smallest, and that gap is very difficult to close.   Read more about that here.

You can read more about critical periods for learning in Endangered Minds by Jane Healey.  Stay tuned next week for another window that is open until your child is about 6 years of age.

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