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Best age to start learning a new language?


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I often wish I'd had the opportunity to learn foreign languages at a very young age. But I didn't get my first opportunity until I went to university, where I was able to do French as a Minor for my Linguistics Degree. After all, it's been proven that the younger the child; the stronger the ability to learn languages simultaneously.

What are your thoughts on this? If you'd been given a chance, which languages would you like to have picked up? What age do you think is best to start teaching children foreign languages?

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I prefer to teach children since 3 or 4 years old. I think it's easy for them to get used to foreign language. But when child is old enough to realize that it's foreign language, it's very important for him to have wish to learn it. Because wish influences on efficiency of studying process.

That's why I think the main thing here is not age, but wish

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  • 2 weeks later...

I often wish I'd had the opportunity to learn foreign languages at a very young age. But I didn't get my first opportunity until I went to university, where I was able to do French as a Minor for my Linguistics Degree. After all, it's been proven that the younger the child; the stronger the ability to learn languages simultaneously.

What are your thoughts on this? If you'd been given a chance, which languages would you like to have picked up? What age do you think is best to start teaching children foreign languages?

I think it's true that at younger age.. we pick up information faster or easily than when we're adults. If given a chance, I'd be happy if I pick up Spanish or French or better yet both of them. I think they are both useful and fun to learn. In my opinion, 3-5 years old is the best age to start teaching a new language.

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I think the earlier children start learning a language the faster they'd become fluent in the language. If possible, communication should start even before the child is able to speak. For me, I would have liked if I had started learning earlier or even put more interest in learning back then. I know it would have paid off now.

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I think when a baby is just beginning to talk for the first time, that's when it's really best to teach them other languages beside the mother tongue.  That age is when children are like a sponge, they just absorb so well everything that they see or hear.  I have a friend who did that to their daughter and she basically knows how to speak fluent Danish already before she turned 3.

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When it comes to teaching a new language, I think it's best to teach people as early as possible so they wouldn't even feel much of an effort when learning about it. If a child grows up and starts to become conscious already being spoken to in a certain language, then chances are they will adopt that language naturally and will be able to use it effortlessly throughout their lives.

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While I agree with everyone else here that learning languages should start at an early age, I don't think it HAS to be before 5 years old. I went to Australia with my mum in the 3rd grade (so around 9-10) with ZERO knowledge of English whatsoever, and I managed to pick it up okay.

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It's better to expose them to a new language when they're still babies, that way they grow up listening to that language, that is how you and me learnt our mother languages, actually.  The younger the better!  I actually didn't understand how that happened, until I started learning a new language on my own after years of not trying (I learnt english when I was 16 - it was a very fluid and natural process) and I noticed how hard it is to learn now. 

I mean  I can memorize and learn things, but when I was 16 and learning english I had no issues understanding the language structure of English at all. Even the conjugation of irregular verbs was so natural to me... 

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I think as soon as the kid starts going to pre-school, then I guess that is the perfect time for the kid to start learning another language. I got to learn English as soon as I hit nursery, so learning it has been pretty easy for me, not to mention that English is widely used over here.

I wish I had a chance to learn German or Spanish, but I'm leaning more towards Spanish, because a lot of countries use that language.

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I agree with this. I've also heard children's brains are such that they're able to learn more than one language simultaneously. I do wish I'd had this opportunity. If I ever have children, I'll try my best to have them learn at least one modern foreign language.

I think it's true that at younger age.. we pick up information faster or easily than when we're adults. If given a chance, I'd be happy if I pick up Spanish or French or better yet both of them. I think they are both useful and fun to learn. In my opinion, 3-5 years old is the best age to start teaching a new language.

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I think when a baby is just beginning to talk for the first time, that's when it's really best to teach them other languages beside the mother tongue.  That age is when children are like a sponge, they just absorb so well everything that they see or hear.  I have a friend who did that to their daughter and she basically knows how to speak fluent Danish already before she turned 3.

Wow, that's fantastic! -and Danish is not an easy language to learn. My dad is Danish, and the few expressions he tried to teach me were so hard, I just couldn't grasp it! The language seems to have pronunciations that I have never ever come across. Although I suppose you could say the same for all Scandinavian languages!

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When it comes to teaching a new language, I think it's best to teach people as early as possible so they wouldn't even feel much of an effort when learning about it. If a child grows up and starts to become conscious already being spoken to in a certain language, then chances are they will adopt that language naturally and will be able to use it effortlessly throughout their lives.

That's so true! Younger children are also not shy about things such as language learning. They're not as self conscious, they just get on with it, and probably retain things in their brain better. 

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It's better to expose them to a new language when they're still babies, that way they grow up listening to that language, that is how you and me learnt our mother languages, actually.  The younger the better!  I actually didn't understand how that happened, until I started learning a new language on my own after years of not trying (I learnt english when I was 16 - it was a very fluid and natural process) and I noticed how hard it is to learn now. 

I mean  I can memorize and learn things, but when I was 16 and learning english I had no issues understanding the language structure of English at all. Even the conjugation of irregular verbs was so natural to me...

This is a very good point that someone else made! of course it's best they learn it from being a baby because then it becomes second nature, it becomes embedded in their heads and they grow up to speak the language naturally; effectively making them 'native" speakers in a sense.

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It is much harder to learn new languages when you become an adult because there are so many things that occupy your mind. Starting out learning as a child is much easier because the mind is still developing and can hold onto information longer. I really wish I would have started to learn when I was much younger than I am right now.

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  • 2 weeks later...

I agree that it's so much easier to learn as a child because the brain is far more able to retain information better, and it sticks! I wish I'd learnt both French and Italian from about the age of 5 lol Right now I'd be fluent, virtually a native speaker!

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  • 3 weeks later...

The earlier the kids are introduce to a second language, the easier and faster for them to learn it. Children are very good mimics. They can easily imitate the sound they hear, and then later you can teach them the meaning of the sound, which may then progress or develop to words and phrases.

I wish I had the opportunity to learn a third language when I was younger. Right now, I am a little too busy with so many things that I am having a hard time setting time for my wish to learn a third language.

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  • 4 weeks later...

Anne16, I too wish I'd been exposed to more foreign languages as a child. Language skills are so hot right now, and make you a huge asset to any prospective employer. I always envy multilingual people because they can go anywhere with their skills, they're just so in demand the world over!

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I think it depends a lot on the individual.  I have a friend who was part of the Spanish Emersion program in which half of classes were taught in Spanish starting in Kindergarten or first grade.  Starting early had no effect on her ability to be fluent in the language, but I don't believe it would be so for every individual.  I think it would depend on a number of factors like learning style and whether the language is spoken at home.

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I don't think there should be a specific age where an individual is 'best" to learn a new language. Sure it's good when they're still young but what if the kid doesn't want to learn a new language then? I guess I'm speaking based on experience.

I was in a Chinese school for two years when I was younger and I absolutely hated learning Chinese because it was being pushed onto me. I was pressured by my family to learn a language I didn't find fun to learn so I ended up not enjoying my stay at that school. I changed to a another school where I wasn't pressured to learn any new languages and they gave us the freedom to learn a language we actually want to learn. I found myself falling in love with the Korean language and I studied it so much without anyone pressuring me.

So I guess it actually depends on the child and the parents. If the language is being integrated in daily conversations, I think this is better because the child isn't being pressured and it comes off as normal.

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I don't have a very specific year of age to go by like 12 or 3 or something. However, I do think it would be best to teach a child multiple languages while she or he is below the age of 6; that much I do know. Once a child is 6, they begin kindergarten usually and will have more to worry about than just a few foreign words.

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  • 1 month later...

If you want the child to be really fluent in a language, they should be exposed to it as early as possible. We're not talking about conscious learning of course, that comes when they are able to go to school. Unconsciously though, a child is able to pick up on the languages they are exposed to, as long as they come in contact with native speakers. Consider bilingual children, whose parents speak different languages. They grow up hearing two different language varieties and by the age of 6 they are able to use both languages equally well.

Of course this is the ideal scenario for a child to become a fluent speaker. Not every child will be able to be exposed to different languages before the age of 5-6.

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The best age to start learning a new language is when the mind is still fresh so as to avoid confusion brought about by other languages that have already been mastered.

Therefore, children are better learners of languages as compared to adults.

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  • 1 month later...

I think it's basically easier to learn any language when you're as young as possible, even just through exposure. I mean, look at young children, most of them can speak fluently in their native languages by the age of 3.

I grew up in a bilingual Chinese and English household, so I was able to speak both languages well when I was young. English was far easier to read due to the limited alphabet, but I learned to read quite a lot of basic Chinese words then as well. I didn't do much reading of Chinese after age 10 or so, but I'd estimate that most of the words I know were learned before age 5 when I was more willing to learn, before going to an entirely English speaking school.

I think that the major challenge for language learning with children is to continue teaching them; even though there's a hard stage where they don't want to because they feel that it is useless.

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This is a very good point that someone else made! of course it's best they learn it from being a baby because then it becomes second nature, it becomes embedded in their heads and they grow up to speak the language naturally; effectively making them 'native" speakers in a sense.

I think that someone else was me in another thread :P  A thread I created about active listening if I am not mistaken.  But yeah, children have it so easy when it comes to language, that is why it'd not be so shocking if we meet a kid who can speak 5 languages.  It's all up to the parents in the end.

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