If your child is still in diapers, and just now beginning to communicate, now is the time to introduce him or her to a foreign language. That may sound ridiculous, but there are numerous studies to back up the recommendation.
Kids are like sponges, so it should come as no surprise that even before they’re talking in sentences, with a little repetition, they’re able to learn and remember that manaza (Spanish), pomme (French), pomum (Latin), and apple (English), all mean the same thing.
“Young children are language learners,” says Nancy Rhodes, director of foreign language education at the Center for Applied Linguistics in Washington, D.C. “From birth to age 12, one of their main activities is learning language, so what better time to introduce a second or even third one.”
Studies have shown that children who learn a language before the onset of adolescence are much more likely to have native-like pronunciation. A number of experts attribute this proficiency to physiological changes that occur in the maturing brain as a child enters puberty.
“Of all the foreign languages out there, perhaps the most beneficial one to teach a young child is Latin. It provides a solid foundation for the acquisition of other languages,” says Marie Carducci Bolchazy, who has a doctoral degree in education from the State University of New York. Bolchazy has written a series of books that introduce young children to the language.
Her book, “Quo colore est?” which means “What Color is It?” introduces children to all the colors of the rainbow. “Quis me amat?” which means “Who Loves Me?” focuses on the family. The book teaches kids the Latin words for mother, father, sister, brother and members of their extended family, and how to say they love them.
“When I sat down to write this series, I had a clear goal in mind,” says Bolchazy. “With these books, a child can start learning Latin at age four, and Latin is an excellent foreign language to select. Just ask any lawyer, doctor, scientist, nurse, or linguist.”
There are currently four titles in the “I Am Reading Latin” book series:
“What Color is It?”
“Who Loves Me?”
“What Will I Eat?”
“How Many Animals?” Aside from mastering the ability to speak and understand another language, there are a number of other advantages to introducing language skills early. “Research we’ve gathered shows, cognitively, kids exposed to multiple languages score higher on problem solving and creativity questions on standardized tests. They also have better overall school performance,” says Rhodes.
And that’s not all. Knowing a second language ultimately provides a competitive advantage in the workforce by opening up additional job opportunities, not to mention the benefit of giving the child a lifelong ability to communicate with people from other countries and cultures. Latin, in particular, should be recommended — after all, it is the basic language and culture from central Europe through the Americas.