Language Courses

Written by Patty Yu
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As children grow and learn, they develop their language skills by imitating sounds and making associations. At six months old, a toddler already responds to his name, as well as to human voices in general. This is also when children begin vocalizing and playing with intonation as they mimic sounds. By age one, a child uses words and understands instructions from his parents.

Over the next two years, the child's vocabulary increases exponentially. He begins to use sentences, using more prepositions correctly as he reaches age three. Fluency and rhythm of speech improve and the child understands when given commands by a parent. It is during this time that a child is highly receptive to learning a second language, since his mouth and tongue are developing as he learns to make sounds.

Many parents hope for their children to speak a second language, but in order to introduce a new language at such an early age, learning must be done privately or at home. Since private instruction can be quite expensive, some parents turn to educational videos to expose their young children to a new language. Language videos typically use bright colors, interesting characters, and fun songs to engage children.

Language Courses in Elementary School

Even with all the research showing how children learn new languages faster before the age of ten, few public and private elementary schools include foreign language studies in their curriculums. The numbers however, are increasing as further studies are showing that students with earlier foreign language exposure perform higher in tests and have a broader range of creativity and mental flexibility.

For parents who do not live in a school district with early foreign language programs, at-home course studies are also an option. Language tapes and videos are available for children who are not yet able to read or write, but the visual and aural stimuli in a language video can teach a child to quickly recognize sounds. Entertaining characters and music make the video memorable and fun for the child.

Middle School and High School Language Courses

Once a child reaches middle school, he or she begins to take different subjects from different teachers, with the choice of taking one or two elective classes. Elective classes are non-mandatory classes offered at the school, usually including foreign language courses, art, music, home economics, and other possibilities depending on the school's resources. If a student studies a foreign language for two years in middle school, he or she should be well prepared to continue foreign language studies in high school.

With some experience in middle school, a student might be placed into an already intermediate level in high school. As the language course become progressively harder, the student may develop significant fluency in the foreign language. Higher level language classes, such as Advanced Placement courses, test students at the end of the year for a possibility of obtaining college credit or placing in an upper level class.

College and Beyond

Once in college, students may choose to continue foreign language studies, or they may concentrate on another major. Some students go abroad to another country where they are immersed completely in the culture and lifestyle where their studied language is spoken primarily. Study abroad programs are almost a sure bet for students to become fluent in another language. Those who cannot fit foreign language into their course of study may choose other resources for keeping up a language, such as language tapes and books.

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