As adult learners, our very motivation for learning English can sometimes hinder our progress because we are focusing too much on the end result. But the informal way in which children learn English – through music, games and fun activities – offers an environment in which they can learn and practise without worrying about the importance of it all. In turn, this relaxed attitude gives them confidence in learning English, setting them up for more opportunities in their academic pursuits and career options further down the line. Research has shown the positive impact bilingualism has on a child’s cognitive development and Catherine Ford, head teacher of Moreton First Prep School, says that children should begin learning as young as age three: “before children become self-conscious they can try out their newly acquired languages without fear of embarrassment”.
Starting the English learning process at a young age will provide the head start that most parents are keen to give their children in life, education and career. More than 77% of parents who were interviewed as part of HSBC’s global study said they would consider sending their child to study at university abroad, which means studying in English.
In this recent article, Tas Viglatzis, Managing Director at Pearson English, references the rise in students studying overseas at a post-graduate level: according to the OECD, there were more than 4.5 million students studying overseas in 2012. He also cites the importance of having the right level of English skills to apply for universities in popular destinations such as the US, UK and Australia. Learning from a young age provides a foundation to build upon, and gives your child the confidence to learn more complex English skills specific to their academic goals at university. Traditional English teaching has been known to focus heavily on reading, writing and grammar skills – studying abroad is one of the best ways to immerse yourself in an English speaking culture to develop your speaking and listening skills.
Future career benefits
Tas Viglatzis credits his successful career to learning English at an early age. “English is the lingua franca of business; so learning it has opened up many opportunities for me. If I hadn’t learnt it, I’d have followed a very different path; limiting myself to regional roles rather than global ones.” Being the most widely used language in business globally, the opportunities that come with having English as a second language (whether in non-English or English-speaking countries) are a strong motivator for any student looking to have a role in a global company. Bilingualism is becoming increasingly beneficial when job hunting and can make you more attractive in terms of employability. According to this study by Patricia Gándara of Civil Rights Project: “Bilinguals may not always be paid more, but they often are and they are frequently hired over monolinguals with similar credentials.”
The benefits your children are given by learning English at a young age are invaluable and as they go through life, the possibilities for advancements in their academic and business careers will be wide open. Children are lucky enough to have intuitive language learning capabilities from a young age, and this is certainly something to take advantage of.
This is just the beginning of a new agenda for business English. Join the debate by tweeting #englishforwork.