When to Start Teaching Children a Foreign Language?
Parents often face the question “When to start…?” while growing up their kids. When to start giving an ice-cream? When to start buying books? When I should start giving pocket money? And many-many other questions. Now let’s discuss about when to start teaching children a foreign language.
Inside of the United States, it is common to speak only one language. In fact, some statistics place monolingualism in the United States at 75%. However, across the world it is common to speak two languages or more. There are many benefits to speaking multiple languages. These advantages include improved academic performance, easier communication with more people, and even adds to your marketability in the workplace. All in all, there are a number of strong benefits to teaching children a foreign language.
What is the best age to start teaching kids a foreign language?
So when should you begin teaching children a foreign language? In short, you really can’t start early enough. Many people begin talking to their children in multiple languages from the beginning, even starting with mothers speaking to their child in the womb in multiple languages. While starting that early is not necessary, it is not a bad habit to get yourself in to.
However, many experts agree that the best age to really begin teaching children a foreign language is around the 18-20-month mark. This is when children first begin to really expand their native language competency. At this point, most children will be gaining some amount of familiarity with their native tongue. This makes it the perfect time to introduce a second language. At this age they will be able to pick up the new language almost as easily, making it become second nature for them.
Right start – right path
In bilingual families language learning process goes much easier with fewer obstacles. Because when parents or a caretaker is bilingual the child uses to hear words in different languages from the very beginning. Surprisingly, for children it is not confusing as it seems to adults. In monolingual family a child will face more difficulties, so parents need to create the right atmosphere for child to get familiar with new language.
To begin the teaching process, it is best to continue using the same processes you are to teach them their native tongue, but using both languages each time. Every time you introduce a new word, use both the foreign language and native language.
Moreover, it is better to start with objects your child can see and touch, this way they’ll remember faster. Abstracts words like “thank you”, “sorry” or “I love you” are difficult to visualize, so difficult for them to remember.
What can you do as a parent?
Many children will get bored if you do not actively try to make it interesting. As a parent show that you are interested and involved in the learning process. Therefore, make sure you are doing everything you can to foster a fun, productive learning environment and experience for your children.
Is your child growing in multilingual family? If yes, then your child has greater chance to success in learning a new language than other kids. As I told before, it is better to start early. Every time when you introduce a new word, say also it in another language. Key moment here is, repetition. Every time repeat in two languages, so your child will learn two languages simultaneously.
This is one of the best options to start for your children to start learning a new language. With bilingual or multilingual caretaker will get familiar with new words in different languages at the same time. There is no need to possess pedagogic skills for that, it’s enough just spending time with child as usual, but speaking in different language.
If there is no opportunity for your kid to learn a foreign language at home, you can find classes for individual or group study. Doing activities with other children is fun and engaging, but of course, you need to take into consideration your child’s wishes and preferences.
The biggest advantage of picture books is in encouraging visual comprehension of learned material. For children it is easier to memorize things they heard in combination with the picture. Therefore, buy your child books when he or she is still a toddler. Starting from 8 months kids usually demonstrate interest in colorful picture books. This is also a great chance for you to introduce a child a new language.
Besides that, parents may also read instruction books to help their children. Colin Baker’s “A Parents’ and Teachers’ Guide to Bilingualism” is a good example of guide book for parents to start bilingual education with kids.
Learning through games, programs and apps
Another effective way to teach children a foreign language is to make it fun for them. Make games out of it, maybe show the children animated programs in the foreign language. You can also find plenty of children-friendly language learning apps in AppStore and Play Market. Here is the list of the most popular language learning apps for children.
Best language learning apps for kids:
2. Gus On The Go
3. Little Pim
4. Endless Spanish App
5. Kids Learn Mandarin
6. Rosetta Stone
I missed my chance!
If you have missed that age window of 18-20 months, don’t worry! There is a fair amount of data that suggests that it is still easier to learn foreign languages into your early teens. After this though, it becomes progressively more challenging to master foreign languages. So, it is in your best interests to start your children on the path to learning a foreign language before the ages of 13-14.
There is some amount of uncertainty surrounding why this is the case. It seems that through our teenage years we are still in our “golden age” of learning. However, when it comes to foreign language we really seem to slow down. Some believe this is due to language becoming second nature. Since it is not something that is actively learned to the same extent as a foreign language would need to be. Others think it is due to the amount of work it takes to learn a new language acts as a deterrent for students.
Whatever the case may be, it is imperative to teach your children foreign languages as young as possible. While adults are absolutely capable of learning multiple languages, it is much easier the younger you are. The conclusion is if you are looking for when to teach your child a foreign language, the time is now!