Why kids should learn a second language while they’re young

Many parents assume that young children don’t have the ability to learn two languages at once and decide to wait until they speak their first language fluently to introduce a second language. However, there are many advantages to learning a second language when children are young. In fact, in most cases, the younger they are the better. And it’s not just one extra language they can learn, children are able to learn multiple languages at once.

Yes, really!

The window of opportunity for bilingual children

There is a “critical period” or “window of opportunity” when children learn languages best. Studies have shown that this is when children are between birth and six years old.

The younger children are, the easier they will learn a second language. As they get older that ability diminishes.

It isn’t to say that children cannot learn a second language as they get older, it just means that it won’t be as easy.

Children can become bilingual from birth

Newborns are already able to distinguish languages and can tell their native language to a foreign one. In a TED talk, Patricia Kuhl , the co-director of the Institute for Brain and Learning Sciences at the University of Washington explains that how.  You can read more about that in a related post on Bilingual Babies.

There is more chance your child will acquire a native accent

Do you notice when you hear adults speak a foreign language that they have learned during their school years or even in adulthood, that they have an accent?

Not that there is anything wrong with having an accent. I learned a second language as an adult I have a very strong English accent, but I still get by without a problem. However, speaking with a native accent is an advantage. And to acquire a native accent, one usually needs to have learned the language while they are young.

Young children won’t know any different

The younger kids are, the easier it is for them to learn in a natural way. There is no studying to do, no worksheets etc, it is all through natural play and conversation. They won’t know any different, it will be a natural part of normal life.

Children don’t worry about their mistakes as much as adults do either. Because they are still usually trying to master their first language they are probably making mistakes in both, and learning from them.

The younger they start, the longer they have to practice the language

Think about it, the longer you speak a language, the better you will be at it. So, the younger a child starts to be exposed and practice a language, the quicker they will be able to master it. Starting young gives a child the most crucial years to learn a second language, and then master it as they get older.

If you are thinking of introducing a second language to your child, there is no need to wait until they become fluent in one.  As long as you are providing your child with enough exposure to the language while they are young, and the need to use it as they grow, they can become bilingual from the word go.

Raising a bilingual child? Read these  Multilingual Family Stories for inspiration. Check out the Bilingual Kidspot Language Resources on the home page. Subscribe for related articles. Follow Bilingual KidSpot on Facebook and join our online community and support group.

Children-learn-languages-while-young