Babies exposed to a second language at an early age are more likely to have improved literacy, cognitive and problem-solving skills later on, according to Sheffield mum and entrepreneur Samantha Royle.
Samantha, who lives in Millhouses with her husband and two-year-old son Jude, is launching Baby Bright Eyes, a language school for babies and toddlers, in the Sheffield area in the New Year.
Offering a fun, gentle introduction to French, Italian and Spanish to children from birth to three years old, the classes will run in Walkley, Sharrow, Fulwood, Totley and Ecclesall.
The ten-week courses will include songs, puppets and nursery rhymes to help babies and toddlers get used to the sounds and rhythms of different languages. The course also comes with a CD for parents to play at home, reinforcing what’s been learnt in class.
The ability to speak more than one language has been proved to bring huge benefits to children, says Samantha.
“Babies who become bilingual themselves are more likely to be better at processing information and have enhanced cognitive control.
“It is even thought that the mental workout involved in speaking two or more languages can lead to a delay in the onset of Alzheimer’s Disease.”
The inspiration for Baby Bright Eyes came to Samantha while she was on maternity leave and thinking about activities for mums and babies.
She discovered that her nephew had begun saying some Spanish words at the age of two, simply through seeing and hearing his mum learning the language.
“Noticing how quickly and easily my sister’s child picked up words from another language as well as his native one was a real eye-opener.
“Babies and young children are like sponges, with an incredible ability to learn, and it’s widely accepted now that it’s no problem for them to learn more than one language at the same time.
“I had started learning Italian myself and when I looked into options to introduce it to my son I was frustrated by the lack of resources for parents who wanted their very young children to learn another language.
“Baby Bright Eyes will offer parents the chance to do something fun, useful and potentially life changing with their babies from the earliest possible age.”
The courses feature a family called the Brights who spend their summers travelling around Europe in their camper van, enjoying a series of adventures. The classes, which run roughly parallel to school terms, make use of toys, musical instruments and puppets, as well as activities and getting the children to sing songs.
Samantha has the backing of Cecile De Cat, Director of Linguistics at the University of Leeds, who agrees that early exposure to a second language can be hugely beneficial.
Dr De Cat says: “Research shows that language learning is easiest during childhood and the earlier the better.
“By the time a child reaches puberty, their ability to learn a second language decreases dramatically.
“Interestingly, studies have shown that learning from other people is the most effective means of acquiring language.
“CDs and books are useful tools but won’t work on their own. Interacting with other people is vitally important.”
For more details of the Sheffield classes, visit www.babybrighteyes.co.uk