In our increasingly global world, almost every city is cosmopolitan and many parents are starting to realise that their children will benefit from knowing more than one language. Research even shows that bilinguals tend to be more creative than those who speak one language. Many parents think that they should wait until their child is older so not to interrupt their development and learning in other areas, however, research shows quite the contrary. When it comes to teaching your child a second language, the earlier the better.
- Start as soon as possible - at the age of 2-3, children are not only increasing their vocabulary but they are starting to recognise the speech patterns they have been hearing since birth. The ability to hear different phonetic pronunciations is sharpest before age 3 so the earlier you introduce a second language, the easier it will be for your child to pick up on its unique sounds. If it is a language that neither parent is familiar with, a good way to start would be to have foreign language CDs and DVDs around the house. Even just watching television or listening to music, children are able to pick up the meaning of words and this will give your child the essential tools they need for learning to speak the language fluently at a later stage.
- Try teaching them one word at a time - when your child learns a new word, introduce the same word in the other language at the same time and they will absorb the information.
- Easy access - Try choosing a language that someone around you knows or that you have easy access to like a TV show they can watch regularly. Alternatively, if their babysitter or grandparents speak another language, ask them to speak to the child in that language exclusively. 2 and 3 year olds love to mimic sounds they hear and soon after starting to repeat the words, they will start to understand what they are saying.
- At home - try the one person, one language technique - this is for bilingual households. If both parents speak a different language, it is more effective if they each choose one language and speak to the child in that language only. This will ensure your little one does not end up learning only part of the language. Expect mix-ups, this is normal. Many children will end up using two languages in one sentence and this is normal during the learning process.
- Extracurricular classes - finding a private tutor can be helpful if the language is not one that is taught in schools or if it less common.
- Most importantly, keep it fun! Children tend to enjoy things more when it doesn't seem like a class so keep it natural.