“Come si dice?” “Comment le dit-on?” “How do you say it?”
Take a look at any local parenting website, newsletter, or newspaper and you’ll see plenty of ads for language enrichment programs for kids. What is this increasingly popular phenomenon and why should you take advantage of it?
According to neurobiologists, the human brain is “hardwired” to learn languages as an infant and toddler. Any language learned during this period is stored, literally, in a different part of the brain than language acquired later in life, and in the right environment young children can learn up to four languages without significant slowdown. No kidding. At this age the brain has a limited-time-only specialized plasticity to form the neural pathways necessary for easily and naturally absorbing multiple languages. This ability starts to taper by age three or four and is diminished by puberty. Ironically, high school is the age at which American children have historically been first formally exposed to a second language. Ask anyone who’s ever taken 9th grade Spanish how naturally and easily it came to them.