We all know that the language learning system is most effective when we are children, which is why it is important to provide children with a foundation from an early age to improve their language skills.
Many parents of different nationalities speak their native language at home, which helps the child to learn several languages at the same time.
A baby understands and perceives language differences long before he can speak. Bilingual children are observed to have better abilities to understand situations and solve problems. Because of their ability to switch from one language to the other, they have the same ability to move quickly from one task to another.
Moreover, it has been proven that this would delay the onset of Alzheimer’s disease symptoms by several years.
All these reasons show you the importance of teaching your children other languages:
Strengthens parent-child bonds
WHEN TO START
The ability to learn languages intuitively is naturally diminished with age, so it is important to pass on a language from the earliest moment to help the child become familiar with it as quickly as possible. The sooner you speak another language with your child, the better his or her level will be, even if he or she may not be bilingual immediately.
The earlier the better, it will also make them more inclined to learn a third language sooner.
Even if they haven’t yet spoken a single word you can speak to them in English for example, they will be more receptive and more familiar with the language once they can speak, you can even start as early as during pregnancy.
After 6 years the ability to acquire a language intuitively declines considerably but it is never too late.
HOW TO DO
Do not set too strict rules and keep the natural side of language transmission by having regular language exchanges at natural times such as bathing, eating etc…
Practice and motivation are the essential keys to learning a new language, for children it is enough to find moments to change languages when they are spoken to and to introduce this kind of moment from a very early age.
Many schools offer services that promote language learning through creative workshops, films in original versions or simply playful games that familiarise children with a language while having fun.
You can also use technology when they are a bit older to make them play online games and teach them sentence structure, grammar etc on websites.
You can also opt for a bilingual school or a foreign nanny but the best way for the child to learn a language is to integrate it into moments of his daily life such as when he is getting dressed or playing with you or going for a walk in the park etc… These are the three most effective ways to choose the technique that suits you and your child.
One parent one language (Mom speaks English, Dad speaks French)
One place one language (English at school, French at home)
One activity one language (Playing in the park English, Dressing in French)
THINGS TO AVOID
If you do not speak the language fluently, make mistakes from time to time it is best to communicate with the child in your mother tongue and let someone native speak with him/her in that language.
If you notice a slight delay in language does not give up, continue to speak to him/her in both languages, it would not be a good idea to limit him/her to only one language.
Don’t reprimand your child if they use both languages in the same sentence or if they confuse the words between them, just give them the right word to use.
Don’t reprimand your child if he or she uses both languages in the same sentence or if he or she confuses the words between them – just give him or her the right word to use.
It can be effective to repeat the correct sentences so that they understand the difference and are aware of their mistakes.
Teaching your child a language that you don’t know is usually not a good idea unless you have lived in a country for a long time and are familiar with its culture.
If you want to communicate with your child about a country, a culture, a language you can choose to play games for 30 minutes a day to familiarize your child with the language and this will help him/her to be more comfortable when learning the language at school.
As explained above you can use a foreign nanny or a bilingual school if you can afford it as these are expensive services.
However, parents are more effective than others in transmitting motivation to get to know and learn about a culture.
Even if your accent is not good it is not the most important thing and sometimes it is enough to transform daily moments of complicity by changing language.
Be patient – it may take some time before your child is able to have real language exchanges.
Don’t give up, even if it’s difficult for you or the situation doesn’t turn out the way you want it to, it’s important to keep going.
Don’t switch from one language to another in the same sentence or discussion, it is better to clearly delimit the times when you speak each other’s mother tongue.
Congratulate your child when he or she uses his or her mother tongue by reminding him or her that it is his or her mother tongue.
Remember, there are a lot of people on our language exchange who have kids of their own and will be able to help you with speaking a second language to your baby or child!
Written by: Lisa Lambert, Staff Writer