After reviewing the chapter from Nurture Shock about speech development, there have been a couple of questions in my mind regarding what I’ve recently read about right brain education, and language acquisition in early childhood education.
The first question in my mind now is:
1. Can you still teach a child to speak a foreign language even if you can’t speak it?
I’ve always thought the answer to giving my child a head start on picking up other languages was to expose him to them – whether it is simply listening to recordings of other languages being spoken or viewing foreign language flashcards on DVD. However, based on what Bronson and Merryman wrote, it would seem that both of these methods are useless when it comes to teaching a child a language because children need to see a real person speaking in order to pick up the language. They also said that between voice overs and programs that showed a live person talking, the latter was more effective.
I have zero experience in this area but here are my thoughts anyway…
If I have to learn how to speak the language before Gavin can learn it, then I reckon foreign language acquisition for the kids is a doomed subject (except for Hokkien which they can pick up from their grandparents and Daddy). But what if I watched their foreign language flashcard programs with them and repeated the words out loud so they can observe my lips moving? Does that count?
The negative side to this idea is that my pronunciation is quite poor. With time and practice, I will get better so maybe all is not lost.
Perhaps that is the plus point about using programs like EuroTalk – they actually show faces speaking the language. I’m not sure if the lip movements are completely in sync with articulation of the language since it is clear that they are using models, but based on my amateur’s opinion, it looks fairly close to me.
What’s the fall-back plan?
Part of right brain education is developing perfect pitch. One of the benefits of having perfect pitch is that it is easier to pick up languages later in life because the ear is more discerning to the subtle differences in articulation. So even if you miss out on the absorbent period of learning during childhood, your child will still have a better chance of picking up a foreign language later in life.
The other alternative is to teach sign language. Although it isn’t a spoken language, sign language is still considered a second language. Learning how to sign helps to develop the language centers of the brain which might also translate to easier learning of a second language in future. Learning a second language, any second language, keeps the pathways of the language centers in the brain active so they do not get pruned away from disuse during early childhood development.
2. What about 360 degree learning?
Right brain education talks about a child being able to learn through direct learning, peripheral learning and 360 degree learning. This is because all objects give off a certain energy that the right brain is perceptive towards. However, if the research shows that children need to observe a live person speaking in order to pick up a language, then what does this mean with regards to 360 degree learning, or even peripheral learning? Or does it only apply to language acquisition?
I have no doubt that a child can learn things even without seeming to pay any attention because I’ve seen it happen. Yet it seems to contradict the findings of the research that Bronson and Merryman refer to. When in doubt, just do it anyway? Bronson and Merryman said that there was no negative effect of showing these early childhood educational DVDs, merely that they did not deliver the results they promised.
3. You are still your child’s best teacher.
This isn’t a question, but a thought. If there is a take-home message in all of this, I guess at the end of the day, you are still your child’s best teacher. Based on the information from Nurture Shock, I would presume that using the Glenn Doman method of teaching with flashcards would be one of the better ways for teaching your baby. Similarly, right brain classes are more effective than playing right brain education DVDs at home because the teacher is a live person.