It has been estimated that more than half of the world’s population are bilinguals or multilinguals (B. Wong, 2015). And the truth is that in a more globally connected world than ever, it makes total sense.
Among our youngest students, who have registered for online Spanish classes for kids with us, 50% of them are currently learning three languages and 15% of them, four languages! Neuroplasticity in the brain of a kid is just amazing. It always surprises me how they are able to repeat their sentences in Spanish after I verbalise them out loud without any accent!! According to Dr. Andrew Huberman, a kid can perfectly speak 9 ~ 12 different languages without any accent.
Considering that I work with English-speaking children, the languages most requested by parents for their kids to learn are Chinese and Spanish. Following those, some parents opt for German, Korean, or Japanese.
English, Chinese, and Spanish are widely spoken languages globally, either due to their large number of speakers or their status as official languages in numerous countries. In addition, when parents have well-defined criteria, they often opt for niche languages like German, Japanese, or Korean. These choices may come from personal reasons, such as family ancestry, or from considerations about their children’s future career prospects in growing and developed economies.
The Spanish language in the world
In the case of Spanish, according to the annual report of the Cervantes Institute, there are some 591 million Spanish speakers in the world, of which almost 493 million are native speakers. This represents 7.5% of the world’s population.
In fact, Spanish is the second most widely spoken mother tongue in the world and the third most spoken language, behind Mandarin Chinese and English.
More data: more than 24 million students globally study Spanish as a foreign language. And, Spanish is the third most used language on the internet, after English and Mandarin Chinese, and the second most used language on digital platforms such as YouTube, Facebook, Netflix, LinkedIn, Wikipedia, Instagram, etc.
And if you think of geography, Spanish is the official language in 21 countries: Spain in Europe, 18 countries in Latin America (Argentina, Bolivia, Chile, Colombia, Costa Rica, Cuba, Dominican Republic, Ecuador, El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras, Mexico, Nicaragua, Panama, Paraguay, Peru, Uruguay, and Venezuela), Puerto Rico and Equatorial Guinea, in Africa. Now you can understand why there is an increased demand for online Spanish classes for kids and teens.
Online Spanish Classes for Kids: Does age of acquisition affect the capacity to learn new languages?
No, it doesn’t affect your capacity to learn a new language, nor the benefits that your brain gets from learning a second language. Once this has been said, another different thing is if the age of acquisition of your second (or third…) language affects the effort that you need to make to learn it and the level of proficiency that you will be able to reach in the new language, as we lose neuroplasticity as we get older.
Benefits of learning a new language for the brain
Science has shown that bilinguals exhibit advantages in tasks related to executive functioning vs. monolinguals:
- * Inhibitory control: the ability to deliberately override a dominant or automatic response of a bilingual is better than a monolingual.
- * Shifting: the ability to shift flexibly and easily between multiple tasks or operations is also higher in bilingual brains.
- * Updating: the ability to monitor information that is held in working memory and revising it as appropriate with newer or more relevant information is also better in bilingual brains.
Along with the executive functioning of the brain, the attention and cognitive control also improves when learning a new language. And this happens no matter the age you start learning the new language.
Dr. Giovanna Bubbico, from the University of Chieti-Pescara in Italy, conducted a study in 2019 showing the benefits for our brain of learning a second language are visible four months after starting to learn the second language. Bubbico conducted a study with 26 Italians between the ages of 59 and 79 who began to study English in their mature age.
The benefits observed in these people 4 months after starting to study English were:
- * Short-term memory improvement.
- * Long-term memory improvement.
- * Increased neuronal connectivity.
In her study, Dr. Bubbico concludes that the stimulation that our brain receives from learning a second language promotes a healthy ageing of the brain over the years, regardless of the age at which we start learning the new language.
The Critical Period Hypothesis
However, as we get older, we lose neuroplasticity . The later we start learning a new language, the more effort we are going to need to put into it, and the more difficult it will be for us to reach high proficiency in the new language that we are learning.
The Critical Period Hypothesis is a linguistic theory that directly links age and language acquisition. Originally developed by Wilder Penfield, the hypothesis suggests that it is only possible for people to learn a language fluently (either a first or second language) if they start learning it before the age of nine ~ thirteen.
Thus, the earlier a language is learned the easier it will be for the learner to acquire it and the higher the level of native-like proficiency will be attained.
Online Spanish Classes for Kids: Mode of learning by early vs. late learners
Our online Spanish classes for kids are designed using special materials and following a specific method to have a class dynamic that matches the way a kid learns: without awareness of what is being learned.
Young learners learn certain language aspects implicitly whereas late learners adopt a more explicit approach, perhaps more conscious, effortful, and academic-like than early learners.
Our online Spanish classes for kids allow us to teach Spanish in a fun, effective and enjoyable way to kids from 6 to 11 years old. After that, again, we adapt our materials for our online Spanish classes for teens, because as you’ve seen before, it’s scientifically proven that our brain changes around the age of 12 ~ 13. After this age, students make use of pedagogical grammatical descriptions and analogical reasoning, among other things when learning a new language.
Online Spanish Classes for Kids: Gift your kid the present of learning Spanish
If you are one of those parents aware of the importance and advantages of being bilingual or multilingual in today’s world, I don’t need to give you more reasons to book a trial lesson with us and take a look at our online Spanish Classes for Kids.
I learned English when I was an adult, and I certainly know how much effort, work, money and time I had to put into it. Currently, I use English everyday, for my work as well as for my personal life. Today, I couldn’t imagine my life without speaking English and Spanish.
Now that I teach Spanish to kids, I can tell you how valuable this skill will be for them for the rest of their lives.
Gift your kid the present of learning Spanish!
Becky Wong, Bin Yin, Beth O’Brien, “Neurolinguistics: Structure, Function, and Connectivity in the Bilingual Brain”, BioMed Research International, vol. 2016, Article ID 7069274, 22 pages, 2016. https://doi.org/10.1155/2016/7069274
Bubbico, G., Chiacchiaretta, P., Parenti, M., Di Marco, M., Panara, V., Sepede, G., Ferretti, A. and Perrucci, M.G., 2019. Effects of second language learning on the plastic aging brain: functional connectivity, cognitive decline, and reorganization. Frontiers in neuroscience, 13, p.423.
Andrew Huberman: “Huberman Lab” (https://hubermanlab.com/)