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When to start children on learning languages?


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Hello all.  My first child was born last month and my we've been discussing how and when to start teaching her languages.  Specifically, our plan is to teach her Spanish and German.  I've read that young children can pick up a language more easily than an adult, so we have a good opportunity to help her get started.

So, to parents or teachers, when did you start introducing younger children to a non-native language?  How did you integrate this instruction in day-to-day life?  Any tools or tips we should know about?  Any pitfalls to avoid?

Any thoughts would be great.  Thanks much. :)

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Teaching a child a different language at an early stage is better.  It increases their vocabularies. They can easily comprehend words before the age of three. At that age the ability to hear different phonetic pronunciations is at its sharpest.  It will also help if he can constantly hear a conversation in that particular language. The child tries to mimic everything we say. Another thing that can also help is to introduce one word at a time. Showing a picture of an object, teaching him in your native language and the foreign language.

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The earlier the better.

People used to think that children who were raised with several languages would get "confused" and would have delayed linguistic development, but this is not the case.  They will not be slower to speak nor will they get confused.  They may mix the two languages in sentences, but this is often a way to make up for the problem of not yet having learned a word.  For example, a baby growing up learning Vietnamese and English might say a sentence only in English save for a few words, but only because they couldn't access that word in English but could access it in Vietnamese.

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I think the earlier you introduce a language to a child the better.  Children learn language from imitating you.  The more you speak to a child, and read to a child in a specific language, the more language they will learn.  We began speaking to our children from birth, and I think if you want your child to learn another language it is also important to start introducing at birth.  Gradually your child will learn words and start to use them.

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Not only you should start earlier, It's actually easier for children to learn more than one language at a time. If you plan to do it yourself, You can start with the simplest which would be alphabet and numbers. That is always a good one to start ,or you can put the kid in Bilingual playgroup school. Some of my kids in my class were as young as 3 years old. The parents wanted them to learn to socialize at the same time, introduced a little bit of English to them. 

That being said, Learning language for children can be quite boring so they lose interest pretty quick so, you'd want to find program that teach the language through songs and games.

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Someone else touched on this above, but another reason to start as soon as possible is that after a certain number of months, kids lose the ability to say/hear certain sounds.  This would not be much of an issue with the languages you mention but the reason Americans and Chinese people have so much trouble pronouncing the other's language is actually to do with a lack of exposure to the sounds.

As for how to teach your child, if you are fluent in the other languages, just speak them to the child a large percentage of the time.  If you are not, and are financially able, hire someone who is to fill this role.

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I believe in early estimulation, I studied NLP when I was younger, so I know babies are very sensitive to any kind of stimuli. I read an article about how you could start stimulating your unborn baby, by playing games... like for example reading something for him/her and touching your belly everyday; at the same hour.  You can expect a response from the baby, as long as you're 7 months pregnant or so.

Here is a very interesting article on that: http://makewayforbaby.com/babies/prenatal-stimulation.html

I posted that link so you guys see I'm not crazy or making this up  :tongue:!  According to another article I read, unborn babies can start recognizing languages when they're still inside the mother. That's why they seem to pick the language so fast :)

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Earlier is definitely better. You should read my post here in this thread http://linguaholic.com/spanish-language-general-discussion-thread/do-you-find-that-learning-spanish-has-hindered-your-french-%28or-vice-versa%29/ - the last couple of paragraphs, I believe - on the family that had children that knew three languages because of how they chose to have their children learn them.

We have homeschooled my son since first grade, and I have had him doing Spanish since then. Obviously because I'm not fluent it's difficult, but I feel exposure to the language much earlier is better than none at all. He tends to be a bit resistant, but I feel he will definitely appreciate it when he's older.

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I wouldn't stray beyond your native tongue until the child is in at least middle school.  Otherwise, they will be confused with spellings of words.  They'll mix up the proper way to spell words because they'll confuse the words from each of the languages.

Wow, no no no! This tends to be the American mindset and why we are horribly deficient in foreign languages here in the United States. Recently though, some of the public schools here now have bilingual immersion programs, starting in kindergarten. I think that this is an awesome idea.

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Recently though, some of the public schools here now have bilingual immersion programs, starting in kindergarten. I think that this is an awesome idea.

I agree.  I've long been in favor of more language study at earlier ages in the U.S.  Finding about the experiences of friends and acquaintances who grew up in other countries who learned English and other languages early in school made we wish we had similar programs in the U.S.

I remember as a very young child being fascinated by foreign languages; I think probably Spanish was the one I heard most often and to a lesser extent French when our family would go to Quebec, Canada. 

As I child I learned some pig Latin with friends and although we were never that good at it, we did manage sometimes to be able to communicate without being understood by adults. We got a kick out of that.

So yes, I know as a young child I would have loved an early opportunity to learn languages.  I'm sure other children would enjoy it as well.

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When I studied English linguistics last year at the university they focused a lot of time at this exact topic. Like previously stated, many believe that knowing several languages from an early age can make children confused, however, it has been shown in studies that children knowing more than one language actually develop a better understanding for language and for abstract thinking - they can 'connect dots' better.

However, it is important that if parents want to teach their children more than one language, that they are enough sure in their own language and that they stick to it. Otherwise, they CAN get confused. For example, if my boyfriend and I had a child now and decided to teach him/her Swedish and Turkish, I would speak the Swedish, and he would speak the Turkish. Since my Turkish is not so good still, if I would teach the child MY Turkish, it would not have a good outcome.

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If I were you, I would start off with flashcards or some kind of language game. Kids aren't just going to sit down and go by the "book" because with them, they just can't sit in one place. Dedicate at least fifteen minutes each day for your child to learn a language. As they get older, you can extend their learning time.

After, it is a good idea to enroll them in either Spanish, German, or whatever language you want them to learn. Classes will be good for them and can really help.

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  • 2 weeks later...

Here in the UK high school is when children start learning languages but some infant and junior schools have been introducing languages a lot earlier. As a parent l see young children learn languages very easy compared to the teenagers so l would say teach your child from as early as possible.

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Middle school is usually when they start teaching it to kids in the US. I think it's a good time, because it's when they're starting to mature and are able to understand the grammar rules. Any time between toddler and middle school is going to be hard for them.

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It seems to make sense that the earlier they're exposed to a second language the sooner they'll learn. The only problem here is that when the second language comes to take place of the native language which has never been allowed to develop properly. Children should be proficient first in one language when introduced to another. This way, they'll be no confusion. I've also read in one magazine that the studies show that the most advisable age for one to learn a new language is during the early adolescence, that is somewhere between eleven to fifteen. Hope this helps.

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It is more or less common sense that the sooner they start learning the better, but I suppose your girl first needs to learn how to speak. It's true that before she can verbalize it the whole language structure is already inside her head, so possibly you can make her listen stories or songs in foreign languages. I have a 10 CD audio collection from the Grimm Brothers in German from when I was learning German, they were pretty helpful.

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As you are talking about learning German by using CD's from the Grimm brothers, I would like to recommend the GRIMM Online Dictionary. It is an amazing dictionary with priceless entries (most of them being rather old, therefore containing precious and some unique infos). If you are interested in it, you can find the Grimm dictionary here:

http://woerterbuchnetz.de/DWB/

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Hello all.  My first child was born last month and my we've been discussing how and when to start teaching her languages.  Specifically, our plan is to teach her Spanish and German.  I've read that young children can pick up a language more easily than an adult, so we have a good opportunity to help her get started.

So, to parents or teachers, when did you start introducing younger children to a non-native language?  How did you integrate this instruction in day-to-day life?  Any tools or tips we should know about?  Any pitfalls to avoid?

Any thoughts would be great.  Thanks much. :)

Children soak up knowledge like a sponge and if I were you I would start the new language from the very start. I have friends who lived in Spain and their English daughter, by the age of 5 was able to chat easily in both English, Spanish and French just by interacting with playmates in school.

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Well I can contribute this to the Topic. There was this language learning children's cartoon series called Muzzy (You can find it on YouTube if you want now). Well anyway I watched the German version with my younger brother and what I can say about it is this, It will not make you child fluent in the language, however, to this day I can still count to 10 in German and say Good morning and goodnight. My theory is that because I was younger, my mind was more elastic and more open to learning new things so everything I learnt from the show was stored in my mind, even if I didn't learn very much.

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Sounds fascinating. I think I'll teach my kids Tagalog as soon as I through using words and phrases first. I want it to be something fun so they would really like the language and probably use it when we go to the Philippines. Of course I need to make them first, but it's a nice dream to have.

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Well I can contribute this to the Topic. There was this language learning children's cartoon series called Muzzy (You can find it on YouTube if you want now). Well anyway I watched the German version with my younger brother and what I can say about it is this, It will not make you child fluent in the language, however, to this day I can still count to 10 in German and say Good morning and goodnight. My theory is that because I was younger, my mind was more elastic and more open to learning new things so everything I learnt from the show was stored in my mind, even if I didn't learn very much.

My parents bought Muzzy too! It was for the Spanish version though, and I think being exposed to the pronunciations and certain words really helped me in high school when Spanish or French were required courses, and my pronunciation and learning speed were both higher than average. I went on to college with Spanish as my major. Since then I have had to stop schooling for financial reasons, but I'm trying to keep me level of fluency the same and learn even more these days. I have a two month old son that I would love to teach Spanish as he is growing, so I plan on exposing him to the sounds of the language now while he is little and teaching him words, phrases, etc. Worst comes to worst, he will still know the basics, as you do in German! :)

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