Children are like a sponge. Or, so they say. Because of their natural curiosity and ability to learn quickly, it’s common knowledge that it’s best to start teaching children anything at an early age. This includes a second language. In fact, according to recent research, the earlier a child is taught a second language, the better. Although when language acquisition skills peak is debatable, many agree that the older the child is, the harder it is for a child to learn a new language.
But, of course, these are not definitive, so, we still haven’t exactly answered the question, “what is the best age for kids to learn a second language?”
Start As Early As Possible
When we say as early as possible, it means when the child starts to be cognizant of their surroundings. You might think that 2, 3, or 4 years old is too young to start learning a second language, but it’s not. As mentioned already, the earlier a child learns a second language, the better.
But, why so young, you may ask? At such an age, most children haven’t even mastered their mother language yet. That’s true. Between 2-4 years old, children are barely able to speak properly in their native language. However, retention of words isn’t exactly the main point.
According to a recent study by the University of Harvard, teaching children multiple languages during their preschool years (the first three to four years of a child’s life) helps lay a solid foundation for their creative skills and critical thinking going forward.
So, basically, by choosing to teach your children multiple languages early on, even if at an informal setting, your child will benefit a lot from it, despite your child not even remembering much a few years later.
Temper Your Expectations
Learning doesn’t necessarily mean mastering, so try to temper your expectations a bit.
Even if your child started learning the Mandarin language really early, it might take years of study for your child to be fluent in Mandarin and reach a Native speaker’s level. The learning process will not happen easily or quickly, especially if you pressure your child.
What’s important is that you make your child see that learning a new language is a fun and enjoyable process. This way, your child is more receptive and more likely to learn the language as opposed to dreading it.
As for families who speak different dialects at home, then there’s good news for you – children can start learning multiple languages the moment they are born, which gives them a head start compared to other children.
Is It Ever Too Late To Learn a New Language?
Past puberty is considered when the language acquisition skills have started to decline, but that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t bother teaching your child another language, or even learning the Mandarin language yourself. There’s really no age limit when it comes to learning a new language. The only limit is yourself.
So, what are you waiting for? Whether it’s for your child or for yourself, learning a new language offers myriads of benefits. Even if you don’t end up speaking the language on a native level, being bilingual is still better than knowing just a single one!