Let’s get the science bit out of the way first: Study after study has proved the benefits of learning languages at a young age, when little brains are flexible enough to vacuum up new information. Learning languages improves a child’s memory, puzzle-solving ability and reading skills, and it’s a great confidence booster, too. Even kids as young as 3 have been found to benefit from improved critical thinking skills, creativity and mental flexibility when exposed to songs and games in a different language. And what better way to immerse your child in a language than to let them learn it in the country where it is spoken, absorbing the culture as you go? Here are four programs we love.
Looking for a French immersion course? This is our top pick. The school is more than just a language school: It’s an enchanting experience in a 400-year old chateau in the center of Sancerre. There are programs for families and children, plus great excursions like cooking lessons or a vineyard tour that mom and dad will love. The program is offered year-round and is suitable for ages 6 and over.
Enforex summer camps host students from 32 countries, so children can make friends from all over the world. There are eight camps throughout Spain, and the teachers are native Spanish speakers. The program emphasizes learning by doing in addition to language classes. Kids 5 to 17 can participate in a day camp, stay with a host family or share an apartment. Weekly adult courses run simultaneously.
ESL is an award-winning program that offers immersion courses in more than 20 languages all over the world. The junior courses are for 7- to 17-year-olds and include French, German, Spanish and Italian. You can find them throughout Europe. ESL also offers family programs. Courses run during spring, summer and fall breaks.
Cactus offers courses for kids and adults in more than 20 languages in over 120 destinations, including France, Spain, Italy, Germany, Switzerland and Portugal. Cactus also offers summer camps where kids stay with a host family or in a student residence. Counselors are on hand to keep an eye on children during the trip. Most courses take place during summer and are suitable for ages 5 and up.
By Alice Rose