When should we be learning a second language?

My girls have hit a stage where they feel embarrassed about speaking another language. My husband and I have been told it is embarrassing when we speak German to them in public. They don’t like being different from their friends – even though a number of their friends’ parents say they wish their children could speak another language. Many school systems don’t start teaching a foreign language until highschool but why so late? Shouldn’t we start earlier?


cropped view of translator pointing at arrows with different language

BENEFITS OF SPEAKING A SECOND LANGUAGE

There are many benefits of speaking a foreign language. When you look at them I know I wish I had started earlier! 

  • It stimulates your brain
  • Improves attention span
  • Helps with career options when older
  • Boosts creativity
  • Will improve your native (first) language
  • Improves memory
  • Makes traveling easier
  • You can talk to more people
  • It makes learning other languages easier
  • Boosts self-confidence

WHEN SHOULD WE TEACH A FOREIGN LANGUAGE?

Since the 1960s, studies have shown that the best time to begin the study of a foreign language is in elementary school. This is because children at this age show better mental flexibility, more creativity, divergent thinking skills, and improved listening and memory skills. Therefore children are able to process language early on.

Ultimately it’s the earlier the better. But not everyone has that opportunity. And there is no pressure. For us, as a trinational family, it was important for our girls to be bilingual from birth. But there are many families who would like their children to be learning a foreign or second language early.

When it comes to schools, sadly it is the foreign language programs that are often one of the first items to be scrutinized and cut when schools face poor performance evaluations or budget crunches. 

Learning second languages online. Headphones and countries flags on the background.

HOW CAN WE INTRODUCE ANOTHER LANGUAGE?

If your child doesn’t get to learn another language in elementary or primary school, or if you homeschool, there are ways in which you can start to introduce one. Just even providing opportunities to hear other languages is a great start.

  • If a babysitter speaks another language, have them speak to your children in that language. Get them to teach a few phrases, colors, numbers, etc.
  • Buy picture books in another language, especially if they cover colors, numbers, animals, etc.
  • Listen to music and stories in another language.
  • Watch shows in that language. There are children’s shows available on Youtube in foreign languages, or you can change the language on Netflix on many shows. 
  • Use interactive language learning apps.

second languages translation or learning languages online.

LEARNING APPS

There are many different learning apps or software for kids. Some contain more than one language (you get to choose). Others are for a specific language (like French, Spanish, Mandarin, etc.)

Here are some good apps that you can use:

  • DinoLingo – this is the kids version of DuoLingo. It has games and flashcards, stories and is very interactive.
  • DuoLingo – older children would do well with this app.
  • StudyCat
  • Fun Easy Learn – for young beginners
  • Little Pim – has 12 different languages
  • Gus on the Go – for French and Spanish
  • Rosetta Stone
  • Babbel – for ages 8 and up

I think it is safe to say that most people agree that having another language is a wonderful thing. The benefits are wonderful. The opportunities it can provide are amazing. Yet, why do schools push it back to an age where it is harder to learn, like highschool? Why is it often a subject that is dropped? We can set our children up for success when we provide the opportunity to learn another language, even if they don’t become fluent but learn to be conversational.

Check out this post on raising bilingual children.

3 Comments

  1. vorbelutrioperbir

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