What Age Should Our Kids Start Learning a Foreign Language?

There’s no doubt that being able to speak several languages presents a major advantage. It can open a lot of doors in life and provide a plethora of social and business opportunities, not to mention how being bilingual can shape our perception of the world and help us understand it better. Surely, by now, parents are aware of these facts, which has many of them wondering what is the best time to introduce their child to a foreign language and what is the best, most effective way to do so. To answer these questions, we’re listing some useful information that will help parents solve these dilemmas.

When should a child start learning a second language?

Simply put, children should be introduced to a foreign language as early as possible. Now, we can all agree that there will always be mixed opinions on this topic – some people will recommend that your child start learning around the age of three or four, while others will say to wait until they’re between eleven and thirteen before they are exposed to a language other than their mother tongue. The first couple of years of a child’s life are vital because that is the time when the foundations for thinking and learning are set, which is why you’ll hear words of encouragement from many linguistic experts to start early. On the other hand, studies found that adolescents who acquire a foreign language by the age of fifteen are more likely to have almost native-like accent and perform better on proficiency tests compared to students who started learning a new language at eight years of age, which is why some will suggest your child starts learning the second language when they’re eleven.

How can children learn a foreign language?

The best possible scenario would be if a child could grow up in a bilingual family. When children are exposed to a foreign language every day and surrounded by people who are fluent in that language, it’s easier for them to acquire the language completely. In this case, it would be best for each parent to use only one language when speaking to their kid, applying the ‘one parent, one language’ method of teaching. Even though this is an ideal situation, for many parents it simply isn’t possible. Luckily for them, there are language schools like Mogi where your child can work with proficient teachers and study in a fun and friendly learning environment. These highly-trained, dedicated professionals will work at a pace that your kid feels comfortable with, helping them gain practical knowledge of a second language that can be used for different purposes later in life.

How you can help your child learn a second language

As we already mentioned, it’s great if you can teach your child a foreign language at home, but even if you don’t speak that language, there are still many ways you can help your child learn faster and better. While enrolling them in quality programs is advisable, you can always further their knowledge through different media while they’re at home. The best way to do this is to expose them to a foreign language as much as possible, and you can rely on TV programs, cartoons, and shows to make sure your child hears the language being spoken. If you happen to speak the target language yourself, find ways to introduce new vocabulary items and use everyday situations to teach them new words and concepts. Most importantly, let them learn at their own pace, so they actually enjoy the whole learning process.

What you can expect from the language learning process

When a child is learning two different languages at once, it’s natural for them to make grammatical mistakes and mix up words. Sometimes they’ll speak in one language and insert words from the other language to fill in the linguistic gaps – this is called “code-switching” and it’s definitely not something you should worry about. On the contrary, it’s something that will be greatly appreciated when they grow up because it’ll help them adapt their language to the people they’re having a conversation with. They’ll be able to appeal to the person they’re conversing with and even accommodate their language preferences as well. Knowing what to expect when your child is learning a new language will help you better understand the whole process and act accordingly, providing help when necessary.

Raising a bilingual child is no easy task, but it can be a very rewarding process that will enable your child to reap many social, academic, and economic benefits later on. Make sure your child is committed to learning the target language and show your support – you’d be surprised to see what motivation and commitment can do.