How to teach your child a second language

The best ways to encourage bilingual babies and the online resources to help children learn a foreign language

How to teach your child a second language

What is the best age to begin teaching your child a second language? Some people would say you’re never too young to start. Many bilingual parents speak to their children in two languages from the moment they are born.

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There is an old theory that it’s better for a child to master one language before starting another; however, this is no longer adhered to by experts. Instead, most studies have shown that learning a second language at the same time as most children say their first words – anywhere between eight to 16 months – doesn’t alter this time frame or lead to language delays.

This is fine if you are bilingual (or multilingual), but what if you are a monolingual parent? When and how should you teach your child a second language? The best way to start is to give your child as many opportunities as possible to hear a language that they may learn being spoken. Playing tapes of nursery rhymes, songs or watching DVDs in another language is a good start. Finding a range of activities that children do in another language is also essential, because different children learn in different ways. Auditory learners will respond to apps, listening, while dual-language picture books and flashcards work well for more visual learners.

The best way to start is to give your child as many opportunities as possible to hear a language that they may learn being spoken

And, for children who can already read, putting labels on things around the house, naming them in another language is helpful. By the time your child is three, she or he may enjoy a foreign language playgroup or club.

Of course, the very best way for children to learn is to visit the country itself and hear the language being spoken naturally – especially by children their own age. And encouraging your child to ask for something when you’re in a shop or café is all the better. Being rewarded with an ice cream or similar treat you have asked for in another language is the very best, and this will then help them to see the value of speaking another language.

The 6 Best Online Language Learning Resources for Kids

How to teach your child a second language

DinoLingo – The largest online language self-learning program for children between the ages of 2 and 12 years. With 50 languages, 25,000 learning activities, downloadable worksheets and flashcards, it helps children learn another language by watching videos and playing games independently at home. Monthly subscription price: $19.99 a month/Annual Subscription price: $119 a year (comes to $9.99 a month)

DuoLingo – A free mobile app and web based learning tool with bite-size lessons based on very basic learning. With gradual pacing, audio prompts and pictures in just a few minutes a day children (and adults) can dip their toe in to learn 30+ languages. Free.

KidsLingo – A leading, multi award-winning kids’ language franchise that is ideal for children from 0-11 years. Teaching French and Spanish through live and recorded video classes with fun and interactive songs, games, actions, active story-telling and let’s pretend. Free taster session and then price dependent on area.

Little Pim – Using the Entertainment Immersion Method® based on how children naturally acquire language, Little Pim videos engage little ones by tapping into their natural love of play and learning. Each video teaches child-friendly vocabulary, based around a theme. Perfect for kids ages 1-5 years. Subscription from $9.99 includes unlimited access to educational video library in 12 languages and more.

MuzzyBBC – The world’s number one language course for children, developed by the BBC. MUZZY’s simple and effective program works by teaching through low-pressure, fun and animated stories featuring Muzzy and friends. These stories use the natural immersion method, which is modelled on the way children learn their first language. The online subscription from $9.95 per month.

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PetraLingua – An early language online learning program that is ideal for children between the ages of 3 and 10 years. Offering multimedia video language courses with interactive games, songs and  a picture dictionary, covering 20 everyday topics and over 500 basic words in English, Spanish, French, German, Russian and Chinese. Monthly course subscriptions cost from $7.99 each.