Written by: Janet Brock, Headteacher, The British International School of Kuala Lumpur
The New Primary Curriculum in Britain comes into force in September 2014. Many of the changes are to ensure a more challenging and rigorous academic curriculum coupled with a holistic approach. They state that children in KS2 need to learn a foreign language. “Learning a foreign language is a liberation from insularity and provides an opening to other cultures. A high-quality languages education should foster pupils’ curiosity and deepen their understanding of the world. The teaching should enable pupils to express their ideas and thoughts in another language and to understand and respond to its speakers, both in speech and in writing. It should also provide opportunities for them to communicate for practical purposes, learn new ways of thinking and read great literature in the original language.” Any good international school is already teaching languages from a very early age. Studies have found that speaking two or more languages is a great asset to the cognitive process. The brains of bilingual people operate differently than single language speakers, and these differences offer several mental benefits. Speaking a foreign language improves the functionality of your brain by challenging it to recognize, negotiate meaning, and communicate in different language systems. This skill boosts your ability to negotiate meaning in other problem-solving tasks as well. Multilingual people, especially children, are skilled at switching between two systems of speech, writing, and structure. This “juggling” skill makes them good multitaskers, because they can easily switch between different structures. Educators often liken the brain to a muscle, because it functions better with exercise. Learning a language involves memorizing rules and vocabulary, which helps strengthen that mental “muscle.” This exercise improves overall memory, which means that multiple language speakers are better at remembering lists or sequences.
Learning a foreign language draws your focus to the mechanics of language: grammar, conjugations, and sentence structure. This makes you more aware of language, and the ways it can be structured and manipulated. These skills can make you a more effective communicator and a sharper editor and writer. Language speakers also develop a better ear for listening, since they’re skilled at distinguishing meaning from discreet sounds. When choosing an international school look to see how early on they start learning other languages.
***This article was written by Janet Brock, Headteacher at The British International School of Kuala Lumpur. For more information on The British International School of Kuala Lumpur, visit www.britishschool.edu.my