How Young Children Learn Languages

In this modern world where different cultures are coming together and travelling is easily done, many parents are seeing the positive effect that having their young children learn languages can have. Children are absorbing whatever they hear from a young age and develop their language skills very quickly. Unlike adults, they can learn to understand words in two different languages at a rapid rate.

It’s good to start introducing another language to young children from around the age of 2. During this stage in their development they’re starting to register patterns of speech that they’ve been hearing since they were born. A child’s ability to register phonetic sounds is at its height before the age of 3, meaning that when it comes to how young children learn languages; the earlier the better! There are two ways how young children learn languages; simultaneously or sequentially!

Learning a second language simultaneously is achieved by exposing a child to two languages at the same time during their development. This can include a language spoken at home with the child around parents, with exposure to a second language through a nursery or specific child dedicated language program. Before around 6 months old, a child doesn’t hold a preference over what language they adapt to and they can build languages in their brain at a simultaneous rate. It is after around 6 months of age that a child starts to build a preference when it comes to language. This would mean it’s important to expose your child to two languages evenly, so that they don’t drop the vocabulary of a second language from lack of exposure to it.

Approaching a language in a sequential manner would mean your child has become familiar with one language and are then later introduced to a second language. (Such as when english speaking children move abroad and start attending a school where the primary language spoken is French). Unlike simultaneous learning, sequential learning can be introduced at any age, but can be affected by a child’s attitude, mood or learning abilities. Like most things, how young children learn languages very much depends on the individual.

Little Angels Language Learning

If you’re thinking of approaching the idea of teaching your child a second language here are some tips that may help you:

  • When it comes to how young children learn languages the learning environment is essential. The more nurturing the better.
  • Select a language program that supports dual language learning
  • Volunteer some of your time or skills in your child’s classroom. This allows you to communicate in your home with your child and the new language during the day.
  • Teach some basic vocabulary or nursery rhymes in your native language your child’s teachers, making opportunities to practise a second language to all children in the class!
  • Create some activities that will allow you to converse in your home language, such as reading books, singing songs, or playing games.