Should I introduce my baby or child to another language?
What is a good age to start learning a second language?
Babies and toddlers understand instinctively that language is something to explore, to play around with and to enjoy - this is such a joy to watch as a parent. Decades of research suggest that introducing babies to a second language before they are 6 months old helps to shape the brain at its most flexible stage. As a child gets older, the brain's ability to restructure itself diminishes, and by a very early age (between 6 and 9 years old) the window has virtually closed. This is why young children the world over can learn one or more languages almost effortlessly, while older children and adults struggle to become fluent or develop good accents. Tis is a great article if you want to read more about why young children are so good at learning languages https://horizon-magazine.eu/article/why-are-children-so-good-learning-languages.html?fbclid=IwAR3xtx6jMlzt2DTm_Kt2P4Z9JmVnweauXjCqS3-Mc0N7vznvwXMJadVNIc4
My child hasn’t started speaking in English yet – won’t it confuse them to start learning another language now?
This is a common question and concern amongst parents – and there is a lot of conflicting advice out there which can make parents worry that introducing a second language will interfere with developing English skills. In fact, the opposite is actually true. Children can differentiate between two languages within the first weeks of life. "Learning another language actually enhances a child's overall speech development," says Roberta Michnick Golinkoff Ph.D., author of How Babies Talk.
How do I know if my child has any concept of what another language actually is at their age?
They may not have any concept at all – which is not a bad thing! Children learn best when they don’t realise that they are learning. Remember, this is how they are learning their mother tongue, and it’s exactly how you learnt yours!
What are the benefits of learning a second language, and who can benefit from it?
There are so many benefits to learning a second language (visit bilinguasing.com/benefits/ for more detailed info). Here is our round-up of some of our favourutes:
- Natural-sounding, native-like accent
- Enhanced speech development
- Greater Confidence - imagine the feeling of accomplishment that comes with the first time they are understood on holiday!
- Can ward off dementiaand extend life (people who suffer brain damage can sometimes draw from second language skills which occupy a different region of the brain)
- Increased brain power -babies and young children grow new brain cells to process the particular languages they are exposed to. Bilingual children tend to have significantly larger density of grey matter, which is the part of the brain involved in muscle control, sensory perception such as seeing and hearing, memory, emotions, and speech.
- Competitive edge in future markets and the global marketplace
- Broader horizonsand greater intercultural understanding (this is going to be more important than ever for our children’s generation)
How does BilinguaSing help my child to learn languages?
Have you ever heard a song just once and then failed to get it out of your head for days after? Yet try remembering those words of Greek you thought you'd memorised for your holiday and you can bet they just vanish from your mind just when you need them! BilinguaSing French & Spanish classes for kids resolve this by combining music with language learning - and the results speak for themselves (watch what happened when the BBC visited our classes)!
What are the benefits of a ‘bilingual’ approach to language learning, instead of the lesson being delivered only in the foreign language?
The bilingual approach has many benefits: children remain engaged for longer, they experience enhanced understanding as communication is supported, frustration is reduced, enjoyment is increased and a love of languages develops!
How can I find out what my child has learnt in class when he/she gets home?
It’s natural to want to see ‘proof’ that they are benefitting from their regular language class – but this ‘proof’ is far more likely to manifest itself when you least expect it, when they are ready – rather than ‘on-demand’,
Many parents get discouraged when they ask their child to tell them what they have learnt, or to do a specific task like ‘count to 10 in French’ or even just ‘say hello’ and they are met with a blank face (or a random dinosaur roar!)
Try not to be disheartened if this happens, and above all, don’t give up! There is so much going in in their little brains that you can’t see – just like during the period before your child said their first words in English. ‘Speech emergence’ is the third stage of second language acquisition – your child is most likely still in the ‘silent & receptive’ phase, which is an essential part of their language-learning journey.
After a year of learning Spanish at his preschool, my own son, George, would refuse to reply to me if I said ‘Hola’ to him, or encouraged him to count with me in Spanish. You can probably imagine my frustration! However, on our recent holiday to the Canary Islands, we were strolling around the street market one evening market when, out of nowhere, he pointed to a sculpture of an elephant and said loudly: ‘Elefante!’ with a near-perfect accent!
Our advice is to relax, have faith in the process and just be glad that they have the opportunity to be exposed to the language at all. You are giving them a great foundation to build upon later in life, so give yourself a pat on the back!
This article goes into more depth about the different stages of language acquisition and what to expect: https://bilingualkidspot.com/2018/09/19/5-stages-of-second-language-acquisition/
But it’s only 30-45 minutes a week! I don’t speak any languages – what’s the point if we can’t reinforce it at home?
This is a fair question – a 45 minute weekly class only adds up to 30-40 hours a year, which doesn’t come close to the 4,500 hours (approx.) that they clock up in their mother tongue! We have to have realistic expectations, but remember that any exposure to a second language is a good thing. Here are a few tips:
- Having a ‘family motivation’ for learning the language is brilliant – such as making Spain your regular holiday destination.
- Support their learning with our class CDs, which have a parent guide inside the booklet. We see a marked difference when children get to listen to the songs between lessons, and it’s even better when the whole family is on board (you’ll probably be surprised at how much you learn too)! Parents who attend our classes in and around the Windsor area can get free postage by entering the code WINDSOR at checkout https://bilinguasing.com/music-cd-shop/
- Join our lovely community of like-minded parents, so that you can be supported in your family language-learning journey? You also get £5 off your first CD purchase. You just need to sign up to our newsletter, which you can do here https://bilinguasing.com/sign-up-to-our-newsletter/
We are already a bilingual household – won’t adding a third language be too much?
Not at all! Studies show that babies exposed to three, four or even five languages reap even more benefits than those who are exposed to just two. In fact, studies show that children who are fluent in two languages have strengths in “metalinguistic skills” (the ability to think about language), as well as in their general cognitive skills.
Some of the BilinguaSing songs seem too fast, wordy or complicated for my child (and me!) to understand and learn!
Don’t panic! When you were a baby, you heard people talking at full speed all the time. You didn’t need to understand everything (or even be able to speak yet) to be learning from it. This is how we learn our mother tongue – and it’s called ‘immersion’. Trust us – it’s a good thing!
BilinguaSing songs don’t seem teach useful language for when I go on holiday – I won’t be using ‘Humpty Dumpty’ when I go on holiday!
Ha yes that is true (at least, the bit about Humpty Dumpty)!
Nursery rhymes form a huge part of your child’s speech development in infancy. Although much of the content may seem a bit silly and nonsensical, there is a whole lot of transferrable, real, useable language in there too! BilinguaSing songs help make a bridge from what they know already, to the very new concept of learning how this is ‘sung’ in another language. During baby and toddlerhood, nursery rhymes feel nice and ‘secure’ to your child, and a relaxed brain learns best! Don’t worry, we do throw in plenty of useful language too…and by preschool age they will start to learn in a more linear, ‘structured’ way.
Just check out our song lists for our Spanish Vamos 1&2 or French On y va 1&2 CDs, where you will see your child learning how to use a variety of greetings, count up to 1000, order food and drinks, ask for directions, and so much more!
12. I don't know any Spanish/ French! Does that matter?
Not at all! The classes are designed for complete beginners but there is plenty to keep fluent speakers interested too.
13. I found languages really difficult at school. Is there any hope for me starting again now with my toddler?
Most of us started learning a second language at the age of 11, which is way past the 'window of opportunity' of 0-6 years that experts now recommend. This goes some way to explain why, for many of us, language-learning seemed so difficult. This, coupled with the anxieties of starting a new school and having to speak up in front of new teachers and classmates often made the experience even more daunting! With BilinguaSing baby and toddler classes the focus is on is your child as we learn the rhymes together, but we teach how to pronounce things properly which will build your confidence in the language in general. It is amazing how quickly we learn languages through music - most parents say they are singing the rhymes at home and in the car after just 3 or 4 sessions!
Any further questions? Please just drop us a line at firstname.lastname@example.org. We’d also love you to join our growing community of ‘BilinguaSinger’ parents on facebook (@BilinguaSing), which is a great way of staying tuned in to the world of little ones and languages!
Finally – don’t forget to stay tuned by signing up to our newsletter!
Ellie & The BilinguaSing Team