From California to Connecticut, babies sit on the laps of their parents or caretakers and are spoken to in Italian, French, Spanish and, increasingly, Chinese. They sit in circles, distracted by cuddly toys, at schools such as the Language Workshop in New York or informal groups organized by parents.
There have been several studies that have found advantages in starting children off in a new language at a young age. Researchers don't know whether it is biological or social, but most children who learn a language before puberty seem to develop the ability to speak it as a native would.
Francois who runs the Language Workshop, has created a line of linguistic software for young children. "Understanding comes long before speaking, and speaking before reading and writing. That's the way we teach the languages," as Francois says. "And when we translate for children we actually add confusion; it is not necessary in our class. For clarity we have to repeat the word until the idea sinks in."
Some parents fear that with all these different words and languages, their children will have a harder time picking up English or will get confused, but scientists have found no such disadvantage to being multilingual. There are emerging theories that the brain is designed to pick up multiple languages early in life, and that our current monolingual focus is actually a setback of the evolution. Some research shows, when people develop a window in which children can most readily absorb new languages, for the first 6 months of life, for example, babies can hear every sound from every language in the world.
26. What is purpose of the Language Workshop?
27. How do the teachers in the Language Workshop teach?
28. What do the scientists think about the multilingual phenomenon?