Reasons for Learning a Second Language

Thursday, December 13th, 2012

Over the years we have all witnessed the changes in the cultural mix of all major countries of the world. The world has opened its doors to all nations which are now easily accessible by the growth in cheaper air travel and European border restrictions being lifted. These have also impacted Ireland and we are all conscious of the development of international companies using Ireland as a hub for their businesses! 

Recent research undertaken by NUI Maynooth has highlighted the fact that there are over 164 languages now being regularly used in Ireland.

Most Common languages in use in Ireland today are:

– English
– Gaelic
– Polish
– Punjabi
– Urdu
– Spanish
– Chinese
– French
– Sign Language

In Ireland, English is the most common spoken language so it is vital for non- nationals to have a good command of both the written and spoken word.

Importance of Learning English for Non-nationals

– Desire to live and work in English speaking countries where wages are often much higher
– English is most common in Europe as second language
– World wide language for computers
– Main language for flight control

However we seldom consider our own ability to speak a second language and the value and advantages that it can bring to our own lives. In fact the advantages for nationals mirror those of non-nationals. We can move around the world living, working and relishing the experiences and challenges of a new country.

Learning a Second Language

Science suggests that when it comes to learning a second language the ease and proficiency of learning the language is better when tackled in the early years as opposed to nearing puberty when the ability to concentrate is overtaken by physical and social changes. Some parents and educators think adolescence equals the end of English Communication itself!

The Brain and Language Acquisition

The Earlier the Better!

The window of opportunity is simple, from birth to puberty the brain is formatting itself to perform specialised functions based on the input from the environmentג€¦.neural networks gradually form and they function better as they are used.

If a second language is used then the networks for understanding grow in a child’s brain…so early exposure to the language allows for easier learning of the language.

This belief is supported by the view of eminent scientist James Flynn who is
Renowned for his research on Intelligence,

“The mind is much more like a muscle than we have ever realisedג€¦ג€¦It needs to get cognitive exercise. It’s not some piece of clay on which you put an indelible mark.”

Research suggests that exposure to several languages is an excellent way of flexing those muscles. We all know that children have an innate ability to mimic what they see, hear and do and their lack if inhibition provides them with the confidence to tackle new skills. Once we reach adolesance self- consciousness takes over.

This Formatting Process Ends at Puberty

Adult interaction is vitally important to language development on every level as we understand from adult conversations to babies and their responses. In the same way everything we do when we acquire another language can be based on this same styled interaction.

It involves:

1. Exaggeration in simple sentence structure, pattern and vocabulary and intonation

2. Repetition

3. Questions

4. During this period two languages can be learned simultaneously as long as the child interacts with a speaker of both languages.


Acquiring a language is effortlessג€¦ג€¦..early immersion helps children enjoy the experience through play, fun and exploration.

Improvement in Academic Performance

– Statistically children who study a second language score higher in English in College Examinations.
– Language students also perform better in mathematics and problem solving skills.
– No one is expecting young children to master complex points of grammar but they will enjoy and learn about other countries and cultures.
– Ability to communicate when travelling or mixing with non nationals.

How to Begin:

Resources…Contextual…Simple and Clear
Practical Experiences…Instructional Games…I Spy…Memory Games…Children’s Own Interests
Physical Play…Inside and Outside
Links with the Home
All about Myself


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