1. When should a child start learning a foreign language?
Some people believe that a child can start learning a foreign language before the age of 3. However, scientists point out that the optimal age to start learning a foreign language is between 6 and 7 years. This is confirmed by many linguists, on the basis of a number of scientific studies which prove that the human brain is best prepared for this process at that time. However, it is worth remembering that in the period of early education, learning should not consist of complicated tasks or grammar exercises, but only simple games with words or general listening to the language.
The most important thing is to be sensitive. It is worth beginning with simple games or language puzzles and observe how your child reacts to such ideas – whether it is pleasurable or tiresome for them, or if it doesn’t interest them at all. If you notice a lack of enthusiasm, it’s probably too early – then it’s worth letting go and trying again later on. We must remember not to discourage the child from learning – it shouldn’t be associated with difficulty, or not be interesting at the beginning, because then the child will put up resistance, regardless of its predisposition for learning languages.
2. What are the benefits of starting learning languages at an early age?
Without a doubt, the greatest benefit when it comes to learning a foreign language at a young age is the ease of acquiring new information. A child does so in a completely natural way and without much effort, which means that it can learn a foreign language much faster than an adult. Scientists believe that a child’s brain automatically adjusts and divides the sounds heard, associating them with a particular language. The child listens and observes first, and then starts using it on its own.
What is important is that a child is able to learn two or more foreign languages simultaneously. The frequent concerns among parents that teaching their child another language will interfere with learning the first one, the mother tongue, are unjustified. Some say that there is a risk that introducing two languages at the same time will make a child confused, but this is unlikely to happen, as these are two separate “language codes”. Our brain, and even more so the absorptive mind of a toddler, is able to easily distinguish two separate vocabulary sets, and at a later stage also the different grammar of each language separately.
Early learning of a foreign language has a positive impact on both the intellectual and emotional development of a child. Scientific research also proves that the brains of children who learn two languages from an early age develop better and assimilate new information more easily. The learning of each successive language takes place alongside the implementation of the first one, and the whole process positively influences the development of both brain hemispheres.
3. Why do children learn new languages quickly?
Children learn new information very quickly. In the first years of life, we are naturally “programmed” to learn to speak. For children, learning words is completely natural. Contrary to adults, children do not wonder if they are pronouncing a word properly, they do not care if someone understands them. They simply speak. You must remember that a child learns language through situational context, not by heart.
The younger a child is, the easier it is to learn and pronounce the words or accents, and to tone down the content accordingly. Toddlers also don’t have all those inconvenient and unnecessary blockages and inhibitions that appear at a later age, when using a foreign language. Children speak freely, they are not ashamed to make mistakes, they do not bother with elements of speech that they do not understand. They try to understand the context first, and only then focus on the separate parts of the sentence as such. This approach allows them to catch what is most important naturally and not be rapidly discouraged from learning a foreign language.
How quickly your child assimilates the basics of a foreign language really depends on many factors, which include individual language skills, willingness to learn, the ability to concentrate or memorize content, as well as emotional aspects.
4. What to do if a child does not want to learn a language
The situation where a child does not want to learn a language can be caused by many factors, both in terms of skills and emotional aspects. First, you should consider whether your child does not want to learn a language because it is beyond his or her abilities, or whether he or she is simply not interested in it for some reason. If we consider the first option, it is worth focusing on professional learning under the supervision of an experienced specialist who knows methods that can support the child in the educational process. If there is a lack of interest, it is worth introducing the child to the world of the new language in small steps, focusing primarily on games that the child likes. You can try to make your toddler curious and stimulate their imagination through special interactive courses offered by SuperMemo for pre-school and early school children.
So, how can you help your children learn a language?
- Talk to them using simple vocabulary
- do it every day, weaving foreign words into everyday routine, repetitive activities
- if your children react positively to music, you can sing them simple songs in the language they are trying to learn; if they like books, you can read simple stories in that language
- if they like puzzles and rebuses, you can focus on this form of learning, which will certainly pay off for various tests and school tasks at a later stage.
In SuperMemo courses, you will find animated boards, recordings by native speakers and many interactive exercises for children. Thanks to listening to the pronunciation, it will be easier for the child to continue learning the language in the future, and the SuperMemo method itself will ensure quick progress in learning and ensure systematic repetition.
5. Focus on various forms of learning a language
Are you wondering what the best and most effective ways for children to learn a foreign language are? If you think that there is one universal method that will work for every child, then, unfortunately, you are wrong. Because each child is different, has different predispositions, sensitivity and even level of concentration – learning will be different in each case.
It is best to start learning a language with passive forms of language acquisition. From a neurobiological point of view, at the initial stage of learning a new language it is beneficial to simply listen or “immerse yourself” in it. It is good if a young child has daily contact with a foreign language, it is enough for him or her to hear it somewhere in the background and more or less consciously assimilate single words, phrases, accents, etc. Doctors recommend that young children should be provided with stimuli that stimulate certain nerve pathways in the brain. To get your child acquainted with a foreign language, you don’t have to enrol him/her in a language school right away – you can help children learn a new language at home at first. However, you need to make sure that you know the language well, because your mistakes can create bad language habits in your child which will be difficult for you to correct later. If you do not feel too confident, take advantage of SuperMemo courses – professional solutions prepared for learning at home.
First, try to provide your child with various stimuli, do not focus on one source of knowledge alone. Use different senses, provide your child with a variety of sensations, both auditory and visual. It is also worth making your child aware of the wider context of language learning from the very beginning – that language is a part of a specific culture or tradition, that it is connected with history and travel. The earlier we make the child aware that there are many languages in the world, the better.
Learning through play is something that almost all toddlers love. If your child is communicative and enjoys spending time with his or her peers, you can send them to special language camps for children, enrol them in a language preschool or encourage them to participate in various competitions.
6. Select materials according to your child’s age
The most important rule when it comes to learning a new language for children is that the first contact with it should be a pleasure for them. Therefore, a young child should not be given too complicated content right away. It’s worth investing in colourful children’s books and magazines at the very beginning, or giving them a variety of educational toys, and only later on reaching for textbooks and more advanced exercise sets.
In SuperMemo, you will find proposals dedicated to specific age groups – animated language courses from the Memo the Dragon series for younger children, aged 4-6, and interactive English courses from the Young Learners series, designed for children aged 7-12 years, preparing juniors for a language exam. Colourful animations, simple exercises, funny dialogues – all of these elements will quickly accustom your child to the new language, and cleverly combine fun with learning. Thanks to the modern SuperMemo technology, your child can learn where and when he or she wants, and in the way he or she likes best – both online and offline, via the application – on his or her computer or tablet.
You can also enrich your learning with a variety of games and unconventional activities – art classes, movement games, music competitions, rhyming lessons, telling funny stories or playing scenes. Remember that the most important factor influencing the speed of learning a foreign language in children is the regularity of its acquisition, regardless of the form it takes!