Have you ever played a musical instrument, stopped and then started playing again six months later? How about exercise? Maybe you put a lot of time and energy into training for a 10K and then went into hibernation mode. In both cases, once you restarted your activity, you experienced the same challenges a student can face coming out of the summer slide. Here are three risks you should be mindful of when it comes to the language summer slide.
Loss of “muscle memory”
Learning a foreign language literally rewires your brain. If you choose not to provide summer language camps or summer language classes to your young learner, you’re giving your child’s brain permission to take an extended siesta. That means they could lose some of the muscle memory they are building. Being able to quickly recall key words or phrases is part of the essential “glue” to speak in full sentences and eventually become fluent. Bottom line, think of the brain like a muscle. If you aren’t continually providing foreign language enrichment to your child, they risk missing the benefits associated with the language window of opportunity.
Accents and proper pronunciation aren’t reinforced
If you’re doing your homework, you likely recognize the value of programs, like Language Stars, that provide teachers who have authentic accents. Children have a unique ability to pick up on accents and if they learn a foreign language early, they are more likely not to have a “foreign” accent when speaking in their target language. A University of Washington study found that as children move into their teens and adulthood, it is much harder to speak with a native-like tongue. If you take a break from language learning in the summer, your child might miss opportunities to refine their accent.
Missed opportunity to accelerate development
Most parents hope their child becomes fluent in their target language. Language development, like many hobbies or skills, requires continual practice to get better. If your young learner plays a sport or is actively involved in a hobby, you’ve probably observed the importance placed on continually practicing to get better. Language is no different! In fact, summer is often a great opportunity to accelerate development as students are on break from the school year and extracurricular activities.