Science Behind Bilingualism

  • Decades of scientific research have identified preschool as the age appropriate developmental period to achieve multiple language fluency.

  • Young brains are more malleable than old brains. The brains of young children have more neuron cells and neural connections called synapses to use for learning. In fact, by age five, a young child’s brain has 15 times more neurons than an adult brain and is creating 700 new synapses per second. Starting around age 6, the brain begins a process called Pruning, where it dissolves the less used neurons within each brain functional area to increase the brain’s efficiency. Pruning is a “use it or lose it” process.

  • A young malleable brain requires less effort than an older brain to learn new skills, giving scientific support to the idiom “It’s hard to teach an old dog new tricks!” After age 10, the effort required rises dramatically while results are lower (P Levitt; 2009). Malleability and Pruning are related to two more concepts called Critical and Sensitive Periods.

  • A Sensitive period is a time during a child’s life span when s/he is biologically more sensitive to environmental influences or stimulation than at other times. They are windows of learning opportunity, with each brain functional area having its own sensitive period(s), and they are intertwined. They are genetically “turned on and off” by our genes.  Skills can still be learned after a Sensitive Period closes, but it requires much more effort to do so. The Language Sensitive Period is birth to Age 7. Unfortunately, in the United States, our world language educational programs begin in middle school or high school, far outside this genetic window of opportunity.

  • When a child is exposed to multiple languages during the Language Sensitive Period, multilingualism is achieved naturally and effortlessly by simply participating in social relationships within the target language; the key is human-to-human interaction through serve and return exchanges between student and caregiver that form the experience based learning.

    Another learning window opportunity, similar to a Sensitive Period but more restrictive, is a Critical Period. If a critical period is missed, the skillset cannot be completely be acquired. Birth to 12 months is the Language Tonal Critical Period and is important to achieving bilingualism in tonal languages like Chinese. Our infant program is designed to achieve native tonal proficiency in Chinese, Spanish and English through simultaneous language acquisition.

  • Early Childhood is also a time of rapid brain growth in other brain function areas: physical motor skills, social-emotional intelligence, executive function, and cognitive skills. These functional areas each have their own Sensitive Period, and are intertwined with a competency in one dependent upon acquiring skills in another. Emotional wellbeing and social competence provide a strong foundation for emerging cognitive and executive abilities, and together they are the bricks and mortar that comprise the foundation of human development. Physical wellbeing supports social-emotional health and vice versa, as does acquiring certain physical motor skills actually becomes an important prerequisite to reading!

    Achieving Bilingualism in early childhood, as validated by research, results in superior performance in all brain function areas compared to monolinguals. Research confirms that learning a second language before age 7 significantly alters the brain’s structure. According to the Society for Neuroscience, increased brain activity is so prominent and predictable that neurologists can identify bilingualism from a brain scan. The cognitive benefits include reading proficiency, increased comprehension, greater flexibility in thinking, and improved listening and problem-solving skills.

  • Here lies the value of a World Language Immersion Preschool; a bilingual education enhances all brain domain development and enables executive function development to occur earlier, especially when applied over wholistic learning. Experienced based learning enhances the serve and return learning process, creating further learning efficiencies.

    Immersion, Wholistic Learning, Experienced and Studies Based learning combined further with cultural mindfulness, pro-social skill development, and strong inclusion of community and family create a powerful educational foundation, using the science of the young human mind, all before age five. It is the science behind The Bilingual Whiz Kidz method.

  • Children who start ahead, simply stay ahead.

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