The “window of opportunity” idea is widely accepted. Here is a very simplified explanation. From birth until puberty, the brain literally formats itself to perform various specialized functions, such as language, based upon the input it gets from the world. Neural networks gradually form, and they function more and more efficiently as they are used. If a second language is part of that input, networks for understanding and using it grow richer.
Therefore, early exposure to a second language actually causes more connections to grow in a child’s brain; and those connections, in turn, allow for easier additional learning in the second and first languages. This “formatting” process, especially active in the first six years, ends at puberty or around age 12. The brain begins to shed connections it no longer uses. The capacity to distinguish and make sounds not encountered in languages the child speaks diminishes or disappears.
Many scientists believe that a newborn’s brain is genetically “programmed” to learn language. No one actually teaches a child to talk. Rather, parents and others enable her learning by speaking while they interact with her.
The interaction is a critical part of this process; baby talk by adults is part of this interaction. It involves simple sentence structure and vocabulary, exaggerated intonation and sounds, repetition, and questions, all of which help a child sort out meanings, sounds, and sentence patterns of a language.
During this early period, two languages can be learned simultaneously as long as the child regularly interacts with speakers of both languages.
In our Spanish Immersion program children will be exposed to the Spanish language for a minimum of a half hour every day. In our beginning program, children will be able to learn and recognize letters, numbers, colors, shapes, body parts, and simple sentences. This program is designed to make learning a second language something fun. Music, singing songs, flash cards, and different kinds of games will be used as our teaching tool.