Children are sponges for learning when they're young, and some believe that children have the ability to easily pick up new languages. However, studying a new language in kindergarten may come with unfortunate disadvantages, such as a lack of proper teaching resources or time to achieve measurable results. The academic requirements of a kindergarten classroom may make it difficult to include additional instruction in a foreign language. And, there may be debate over which language instruction would be most beneficial to students. For example, some parents may prefer that their children learn Chinese, while others may feel that Spanish would be most beneficial.
Lack of Resources and Qualified Teachers
Native language speakers are the most effective teachers to help kindergarten students learn a new language, and many kindergarten teachers are not native in the foreign language being taught at a particular school. Thus, they may struggle with helping children learn to speak the language comfortably. Also, according to an article titled “Language Teachers Bring the World Into the Classroom” on the website for the National Education Association, budget concerns may force some schools to rely on computer programs to teach new languages to children. Computerized language programs can malfunction, and technical support may not be available. Additional resources may be needed but unavailable due to limited resources.
Lack of Motivation
Although kindergarten students are generally very eager and enthusiastic, their motivation to learn a new language may be lacking. Children may become discouraged if there are difficult parts of a new language. Kindergarten students may be more shy or inhibited when learning a new language because they are fearful of being rejected by classmates. According to the article “Context Counts in Second Language Learning,” published on the Reading Rockets website, kindergarten students are far more likely to be motivated to learn a new language when their parents and other caregivers are interested and supportive of foreign language instruction. If parents are not encouraging of kindergarten students learning a new language, the children's motivation may suffer.
Lack of Time
Teachers in half-day kindergarten programs in particular may have trouble finding additional time needed for foreign language instruction. Although there may be time to introduce the basics of a new language during kindergarten, children would not have time to develop the language completely.
Also, students are likely to forget much of what they learned without further reinforcement throughout elementary school. As reported in the article “Parents Push for Foreign Language Classes,” published on the website for the American Council on the Teaching of Foreign Languages, a long-term commitment to teaching a foreign language is needed for students to become proficient, but students often have only a short segment of foreign language instruction each week.
Adult Learners Have Better Long-Term Results
According to information published on the website for the Center for Applied Linguistics that referenced a report by Barry McLaughlin of the National Center for Research on Cultural Diversity and Second Language Learning, there is a common misunderstanding that young children learn new languages faster and with more ease than adults. In reality, adults and adolescents generally have better results and have an easier time becoming proficient in a second language. Kindergarten students may lack the conversational skills and vocabulary needed to learn the nuances of a foreign language.
- Center for Applied Linguistics: Myths and Misconceptions about Second Language Learning
- Connecticut State Department of Education: The Benefits of Second Language Study
- National Education Association: Language Teachers Bring the World into a Classroom
- American Council on the Teaching of Foreign Languages: Parents Push for Foreign Language Classes
- Reading Rockets: Context Counts in Second Language Learning
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