Have you ever marveled at people who speak a second (or even third or fourth) language as fluently as their first? Well, it may be that these folks have a special aptitude for languages. But the truth is, we all have the capacity to learn a foreign tongue -- particularly if we start at an early age. If you want your child to be bilingual (or even multilingual), here's how to begin.
Every infant is born with the ability to mimic the sounds of any language. But by the time a baby is about 10 months old, he begins to narrow down the range of sounds to those that he hears around him. So if you want your child to learn a second language, it's best to introduce it in the first year of life. If you are a bilingual family (or have a bilingual caregiver), have one parent (and/or caregiver) speak the second language to the baby all the time so he has a chance to become fully "immersed" in it.
If you haven't begun the second language in the first year, it's best to wait until your child is about 2-1/2 -- or until after he has undergone a "vocabulary explosion" in his first language, which generally begins at 18 to 20 months.
If your child doesn't have the chance to learn a second language at home, you can enroll her in a language class for children. Some schools offer "Mommy & Me" classes for kids as young as age 2 (why not take the opportunity to brush up on your high school French?); while others provide classes for the preschool and school-age set.
When looking for a class, make sure it meets the following criteria:
While classes can provide a good foundation for language learning, you'll want to reinforce the concepts at home. Here are some ways to keep the spirit alive:
Why should you encourage your child to study a second language? Researchers have found the following:
Sources: Zero to Three; Berlitz Language Centers; LinguaKids, LLC; John Bonvillian, PhD
The information on this Web site is designed for educational purposes only. It is not intended to be a substitute for informed medical advice or care. You should not use this information to diagnose or treat any health problems or illnesses without consulting your pediatrician or family doctor. Please consult a doctor with any questions or concerns you might have regarding your or your child's condition.