For preschoolers, acquiring a second language can result in cognitive and academic advantages in grade school, according to a Rutgers University report . English-speaking children in the U.S. who learn Spanish in a county or state where Spanish is widely spoken may develop a competitive edge when they enter the workforce as adults. This also applies to native Spanish-speakers in the U.S. who master the English language.
Ana Flores, co-founder of the blog SpanglishBaby.com , is raising a bilingual 4-year-old daughter. "The careers I've had came about largely because I was bilingual," says Flores. "I want my daughter to have the same opportunities I did."
Studies cited by Rutgers show that language acquisition begins even before babies are born, and that infants and toddlers develop an ear for the sounds of the languages to which they are exposed. This is why preschool, according to some experts, is the ideal time for children to acquire a second language.
Cognitive neuroscientist Ellen Bialystok was quoted in the New York Times  last year as noting that bilingual children's brains are better able to focus on important information and filter out content that is less important, a function that can enhance the learning process.
This is the very function that prevents children from confusing two different languages, a common concern among parents whose infants and toddlers are exposed to multiple languages. Parents can also rest assured that exposure to two languages will not slow their preschooler's ability to master her native language, according to the Center for Advanced Research on Language Acquisition at the University of Minnesota .
Flores, who recently co-authored a book on the advantages of bilingualism , is a staunch advocate of early dual-language immersion. "We need to convince schools that dual immersion will bring up test scores and that [bilingualism] is a skill that kids need for 21st century learning and survival."
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