In an increasingly globalized world, speaking a second language becomes increasingly important. We all know this. When we apply for a new job, being bilingual or polyglot multiplies our chances of getting a position. Likewise, we see how schools also include one or more languages in their academic curriculum, which makes us think: Is it essential that I learn to speak another language in addition to English or Spanish?
The answer depends solely on you. Learning French, Italian, Portuguese, or any other language different from yours can help you a lot both personally and professionally. Even though it is completely possible to live a normal life only knowing your mother tongue, this fact makes us question whether it is mandatory to learn much more than we know. Consequently, this makes us debate about the role of our children in this whole situation. Should they relate to another language from their childhood? Pay attention to the following information and find out!
Is it advisable to teach my child a second language?
This is a question that more than 70% of modern parents ask themselves. Given the factors that we mentioned at the beginning of the post, such as globalization and the Internet, it is common to think that children must speak more than one language in order to be successful in adulthood. Although this is not the absolute reality, because there are many successful people who only speak their mother tongue, being bilingual something that can greatly influence their job growth. So considering this, should I teach my child a second language?
The answer is yes. But, again, there are many aspects that you must take into account for this. Helping your child engage with the vocabulary of another language is very different from pressuring him to speak immediately the second language you want to teach him. This second scenario is counterproductive for them.
Children learn on their own time, so it is essential that you support their learning process rather than forcing them to speak a language in an established period. In addition to this, it is strictly necessary to care about the communication in their mother tongue. We emphasize this as many parents now suppress their mother tongue at home to make it easier for their child to learn the second language. This could be a very serious mistake. Let's analyze an example.
Let's say you live in the United States, and your children attend a school where all content is taught in English. You speak Spanish, and you want your child to learn it too. Therefore, when he/she comes home, you suppress English and can only speak Spanish.
As is evident, your child will learn to interact in a second language. But what about the main one? If you don't handle this properly, you can get completely negative results, like double semi-linguism. It is a term used when the child does not develop sufficient competencies in either of the two languages. However, this should not be a concern when matching your desire for your child to speak English with correct teaching practices.
So, what is considered correct when teaching your child a second language?
For many years, there was a false belief that the perfect age to start teaching another language to children was above 11 and 13. However, later studies showed that the reality is the opposite of this. There is very little chance of being bilingual if you start studying the new language after age 10.
An older person is able to learn a new language and speak it fluently, but being bilingual is different. Children who learn another language from a young age have a better command of their vocabulary in the future, and will also be able to think without problems in that other language.
Therefore, we can say that you can teach a second language to your child but, as we have mentioned throughout the article, you must do it properly. In short, you should avoid the following:
- Pressure them to speak another language quickly.
- Force them to suppress their mother tongue in specific spaces or places.
- Speak to them in a language that you do not fully understand.
This last point is also very significant in today's society, since many parents try to communicate with their children in another language without being bilingual or speaking it fluently. Remember that you will not be able to teach something that you do not know completely. Avoid this so as not to confuse your child.
Your child's language and brain.
If your goal is to get your child to learn a second language and be bilingual, then it is ideal to start from a young age. In this way, it will be much easier for them to speak both languages fluently -as long as they understand the structures of both languages at the same time. But, before you start speaking to your child in a language other than the mother one, consider this relevant information:
- First month: During their first month of life, babies will develop new neural and synaptic connections that allow them to capture everything that is around them. Thus, their brain will absorb and store in its memory everything that they see, taste, hear, feel, and touch.
- From the second to the sixth month: At this stage, children can emit the sounds that makeup all the languages of the world. However, they will only learn to speak through the use of the sounds and words they perceive in their environment.
- Ten Years: By the time they reach 10, average kids no longer have the same connections. An adult usually has five hundred billion connections, contrary to what happens with children in their growth period.
- Twelve years: Before this age, the brain is capable of absorbing infinity of information. This is where the bases of attitudes, thought, vision, language, among others, are formed -thus completing the fundamental architecture of the brain.
As you can see, each period can give you an idea of how to handle the teaching of a new language. Experts point out that there is no perfect age to start learning it. Therefore, the younger the child who begins to practice a new language, the greater the chances that he or she will grow up to be a bilingual adult. However, there are certain practices that can favor this fact. Could you identify them throughout the post?
It is also important that you remember that it is never too late to start learning a new language, as this can bring many benefits to your work, professional, personal life, and even to your brain.