Sometimes when parents are talking to me about sending their kids to my language lessons, they seem quite concerned that it would not be beneficial for their children to learn a second language at a young age. They explain to me that it might confuse their kids or obstruct their native language abilities. My usual response: Kids who can speak two languages experience an advanced language development, become better creative thinkers and gain a better awareness of other cultures and new languages. To them it always will be easier to learn an additional language. For kids learning a new language is fun. Languages open a very important door to the world.
Being bilingual myself I always was a little confused about their concerns. What could be wrong about learning a second language?
Then I realized that there are countless myths surrounding bilingual children.
One of the most common ones: Bilingual children mix up languages!
This idea comes from the past. Just recently it was found out that even very young children can differ between different sounds/ languages. Children are very sensitive to sounds and now it is suggested by scientists that children can separate between languages from a very, very early age.
Personally I mix up German and English in only a few situations. My brain seems to need a couple of seconds to change back to English for example when I have spoken to my parents for hours on the phone.
So being a little confused after a German lesson is quite normal. Therefore confusion should not be seen as a bad thing but rather as a good sign. Your child is fully embracing the language challenge and she or he can’t get the new words out of her/his head.
Can it cause a delayed development?
Well, of course NOT! Learning a second language makes your mind explode (and I mean this in a good way). You give your child the opportunity to learn about another culture and different customs at a very young age. What a wonderful chance to see the world with open eyes! Rather then delay your child’s development learning a new language will boost it!
Research also suggests that learning a second language as a child does NOT cause speech delays.
My child is already six years old. It’s too late to start teaching them a second language.
NO. It’s never too late. NEVER! Kids love to learn and especially before their teenage years it is easier for them to pick up a new language- simply because learning is not seen as a dreaded activity but rather as a fun journey.
And the final myth:
Children learn a new language very quickly.
That’s both true and not true. Kids learn very quickly but need a lot of encouragement and patience. Learning a second language shouldn’t be a chore but rather an enjoyable journey.