Learning foreign languages at primary school, what’s all the fuss?

In 2011 Michael Gove announced to the Guardian that every child should learn foreign languages from age five, and now four years on, primary schools must teach pupils a second language as part of the National Curriculum.

Why is it so important, you ask? Well the answer is simple.

The ability to speak more than one languages is a gift; something that opens up a number of doors, which may otherwise have remained shut.

Job prospects, for example, can be boosted by a second language, with many employers requiring it, and many more seeing it as a desirable trait. However going beyond that, being able to speak another language can be hugely beneficial on a more personal level. It can allow you to make friends with people who you may not otherwise have been able to communicate with, not to mention the evidence suggesting that learning another language is good for the brain and may even prevent the onset of cognitive impairment.

While the benefits of being bilingual are vast and well-supported, learning another language can be challenging to say the least.

Research has indicated that the ability to learn another language decreases with age and those who become bilingual at an early age are far more likely to behave and reflect like native speakers.

This isn’t a recent phenomenon, with Lenneberg’s research on the biological foundations of language (1967) suggesting that on average the brain’s ability to acquire another language declines with age, particularly beyond the mid-teens.

This in mind, it’s no wonder compulsory language learning has been extended to primary schools! We need to ensure that young people are given the best possible chance at adopting a new language, and ultimately, this means teaching a second language as early as possible.

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