With parents becoming increasingly aware of the benefits their child can have from learning any new skill, and especially a foreign language, many of them insist on sending their children to different language courses. However, many of them still wonder when the best time to start learning a foreign language is and what methods will work best for their child. After all, they want only the best for their little ones, so this is something they need to put some serious thought into. Here is some valuable information that could help them make a decision.
What’s the difference between learning a language and acquiring it?
Basically, a child acquires a language naturally and subconsciously, without considering any grammar rules. This is a process which usually requires communication with a native speaker, most commonly a parent or another close family member. On the other hand, learning a language involves conscious and willful efforts to memorize different rules of some language in order to be able to speak it properly. So, since your mother tongue is something you acquire, that would mean that acquiring another language would make a child bilingual. This implies that the child can speak both languages equally well, that they won’t make any grammatical mistakes or speak it with an odd accent. However, if a child learns a language and becomes fluent in it, it could easily happen that the child speaks it with some accent and that they cannot use some of the more complex grammatical structures adequately.
How do you choose a teacher?
If your child is fortunate enough to live in a bilingual family, why not make them bilingual as well? You should simply have one family member always talk to the child in one language, and another family member in another language. If this is not the case, there is always the option of finding a language course for your child. When you start researching schools, look for those which pride in their teachers and a good study program. The teachers should be experienced, as well as enthusiastic when working with young learners is concerned. Also, their syllabus should be well developed and the courses adjusted to the age and interests of their students. For example, the popular Monkey Tree ESL courses are designed for learners as young as two, but they have quality programs for older students as well. Finding schools like this, with teachers who don’t mind investing their time, patience and creativity in their students, and those who will tailor their lessons to your child’s tempo and teach them more than just a set of rules should be your goal. And while they can learn a lot at their language school, you can offer them support at home, too. Playing songs, cartoons and teaching them new vocabulary in the foreign language you’ve chosen for them can be very beneficial for the child, but only if you’re fluent in it and don’t make mistakes while speaking it to your little one.
When is the best time to start?
Although there are adults learning foreign languages successfully, the truth of the matter is, the younger the learner, the better and faster they will learn. Therefore, your child should start learning the foreign language of your or their choice as early as possible. When children are small, they learn without much effort and usually without realizing they’re actually learning something new. If you choose the right class and the right teacher for them, they’ll probably think they’re just playing. Also, if they start early enough and with good support, they can even acquire the language in question. If your child is in their teens, they can still easily learn any language, but the younger they are when they start, the better they’ll pronounce words and more fluent they will be. You can go as far as to introduce the foreign language to your child while they’re still acquiring their mother tongue, meaning that they don’t even have to be a full year old to start.
There’s no need to wait for your child to grow up before you send them to a language course. In fact, the earlier they start learning, the better chances they’ll have of mastering the language and of being able to use it to their advantage one day.