As a parent, having our child speak a foreign language will make us proud. But did you know when is the best time for kids to learn a new language?
Many researchers said that the sooner a child learn another language, their chance to excel at that language will also be higher. There are many different research about when a child’s ability to learn another language peaks: some say it will peak before the age of 6 or 7, and some claim that it extends until puberty. However, they all agree it will be harder for someone to learn a new language once they went through puberty.
Let your kids learn new languages before 3 to 4 years old!
Studies made by Harvard University confirmed that creativity, flexibility of the mind, and critical thinking skills of children will also be enhanced if they learn another language during this time. The same research from Harvard also claims that children have a natural ability to learn. This really helps the learning process of language, because they don’t have to master it first. They only need to know about the language, and their ability will grow as they do later in life.
Another studies explain why the best time for kids to learn another language is before they reach 3 to 4 years old. They found that during that age, children will be able to adopt pronunciation and they can recreate new sounds faster. Another reason is that children’s minds aren’t filled with facts and information yet.
In a bilingual nursery school in North London called Spanish Nursery, the children there could already speak Spanish even though they haven’t gone to school yet. The director, Carmen Rampersad said that at their age, children don’t learn language; they acquire it. And for some of the kids, Spanish is not their second language. It’s either their third or fourth language.
A research by a neuroscientist in 2002 finds that the best time for kids to learn another language is when they are approaching their 3rd year. Once they reach their teenage years, it will be harder for them, because the brain will start to change.
Learn by playing?
In Moreton First Prep School, the 3 years-olds attending this school practice their English by singing and playing. Not only English, they also learn French using fun methods that are music and stories.
But that’s not all. The kids are also exposed to another foreign language: Mandarin Chinese. The school uses games and props, so that kids will not realize it that they are being exposed to another new language.
But what if my kids were late boomers?
It’s completely ok!
While the best time for kids to learn another language is when they approach their 3rd to 4th year, it doesn’t mean it’s impossible for your kids to learn another language when they reach their teenage age. However, their way of learning will be different from when they were little.
Antonella Sorace, a professor of developmental linguistics at the University of Edinburgh says that not everything goes downhill with age. One example of this is “explicit learning”, a way of learning in which a teacher explains the rules of a certain language in a classroom.
For younger kids, this is impossible because they do not have the cognitive control yet. Moreover, their attention span and memory capabilities are not yet enough for that kind of study.
If anything, a study by Israelites professors concluded that adults might be better at learning new languages, but in a way different from kids. For adults, they will use the experiences and skills they acquire as they matured, and will use that knowledge to process new information about the language.
To summarize, while the best time for kids to learn another language is when they are approaching their 3rd to 4th years, this is the time where kids are only imitating what was taught to them. Those languages they were exposed to when they were young will then be perfected during their teenage age if they study them further.
Activities to do with your kids
To help your kids learn another language, it might help to create picture cards with various languages on it. For this example, the language we will use are: English and France.
Download the example flashcards here.
The flashcards example consists of 12 different animals (including cat and dog) so you can play with your kids. We suggest that you print the flashcards on a white cardstock, so they will have a better quality.
You can create your own flashcards and choose the language you want to teach your child.