Language academies offer us the possibility of teaching foreign languages to children from a very young age. Some offer to start learning from the year of birth, as it is considered that the sooner a new language is introduced the faster the child will learn, but before making this decision you should ask yourself if it is the best for your child. The same goes for learning the Chinese language and learning Mandarin, irrespective of the fact that they are regarded as some of the toughest languages to learn in the world.
During their first year, babies learn to detect and differentiate how sounds are related to their environment. It is a fundamental moment to be able to communicate through words because during this period neural connections dedicated specifically to learning how to speak are being formed.
These types of connections are formed daily and feed on everything the baby hears around him or her. It is so because, depending on how the conversation between two people is, the sound of the same words will be different.
It is important to note that how strong emotions form the base of a simple salutation such as “good morning”, how emotional it is going to be and what we are going to say next. These subtleties that happen to us unnoticed are important for the child, since behind these changes there are very different communicative intentions.
This is how during the first months of life babies learn the words of their environment. Later they will memorise the words that are repeated and begin to repeat those that are simpler and more useful, such as “mom”, “dad” or “water”. So, the best time for your child to start learning a new language will be different depending on how they are learning their own language and what contact they have in everyday with the new language.
In the event that your baby needs more time to learn to speak, look at the evolutionary tables of the language to get an idea of where you are. If in doubt, wait until at least 3 years of age. On the other hand, if you see that your child follows a good rhythm of learning of spoken communication and also in his day to day has contact with this new language that you want him to learn, then it is much easier for your baby to be prepared to assimilate the new language.
Furthermore, some studies suggest that learning of a second language is limited after 5 years. The MIT research finds that between 10 and 18 years old, a child can also develop a solid learning process. However, they emphasise that achieving a native mastery of a language is very difficult if you start learning it after 10 years. Likewise, they also reveal that it is almost impossible to achieve a competence similar to that of a native speaker unless they start learning it before they are 10 years old.
To sum up the discussion, it can be said that although it is still unknown why this age is the critical period for learning languages, researchers point to cultural or biological factors such as brain plasticity. Nonetheless, it is not a good thing to force them to learn a second language if there are still struggling with their mother tongue.
If you want them to attain a perfect mastery of Mandarin, you can use this these points to guide you to enrol your child in a Mandarin course in Singapore.