When should my child start learning a second language?
July, 2017
No matter where you are in the process of your child learning to speak English, then read on. We’ve pulled together some vital information for you.
English as a second language?
As a caring parent, you already know how important it is to give your child the best start in life. In today’s increasingly globalised economy, providing your child with the advantage of being able to speak a second language could be the key to a variety of life options that might not otherwise be available to them.

Many parents have already acquired first-hand experience of the benefits of being multi-lingual. Having the edge in the global workforce, being able to communicate with new friends and business contacts in addition to having superior reading and writing skills are just a few of these.

If you’ve already set your heart on your child learning the English language early, then here’s what you need to know:

Some language professionals believe that the younger children are when they learn to speak English, the better. After all, babies are hardwired to learn language and the earlier that they’re exposed to language, the easier and faster it should be for them to learn it.

If your child is older and just starting school, then don’t despair. Your child is still within the most advantageous timeframe for them to learn. They will still be wired to learn language until 8 years old or so, so will pick it up quickly. After that age, it may take more focus and more work but they can still learn to speak English rapidly. This is particularly true with language immersion methods.

Some believe that forcing a second language on a child early can result in them struggling. Research shows that those who speak two languages early in life, may be behind in both of those languages. By allowing a child to learn one language and then focus on learning the next one, you could give them a head start on the first language and ensure that they don’t get left behind at school.

We suggest that you do your own research to understand more about this topic. There are several different theories, some borne from experience and others from professional education. In our opinion, the earlier the better. It will prove to be less painful for everybody in the long run.

Tips for your child learning English as a second language

When you are ready for your child to begin their exposure to English, here are a few tips on how you can go about helping along that education process:

One person, one language. Assign a language to each person that the child communicates with. For example, the nanny may speak German to your child, the mother may speak English and the father may speak Russian.

One day, one language. This approach can offer another very effective approach to help your child get immersed in English. An alternative is to speak English throughout the week, and another language at weekends. Or maybe speak English at home and another language outside of the home.

Join a forum.  Other parents who are going through the same process can provide a wealth of information and guidance.  Look for forums where parents meet to discuss the needs and progress of their bilingual child.

Items and animals. Start out with a plan for your child to know the names of items in their life and the words for animals. You could name all the animals in their books, even if you must learn new words yourself to be able to do this.

What to expect. A child can learn maybe 3 new words a day, keep practising every day and your child will soon speak English. It may take a while for them to master it, but with incremental improvement, they will soon be bi-lingual and speaking English.

Some parents opt to speak the secondary language at home, so that the child is immersed in it. Then during school or preschool hours they will be communicating in the primary language of their own country. At the age of 3, they can pick this up very quickly. In addition to using the English words for objects, you may want to show cartoons in English.

As your child learns to speak English, let us know how you get on in the comments to give other parents some encouragement.

We also have lots more information available on the benefits of learning a second language and myths about being bilingual.