Tips To Help Your Child Learn A Second Language

Tips to Introduce your Child to a Foreign Language
Tips to Introduce your Child to a Foreign Language | Source

What are the Benefits of Learning a Second Language at a Young Age?

So what are the benefits of introducing your child to a second language whilst they are young? There's been a lot of research done in this area and the results are overwhelmingly positive. Learning a second or even third language whilst young will have a very positive outcome for your child. Here are just some of the ways that your child will benefit:-

  • It's easier to learn a second language in early childhood.

In the early years, the brain is wired up to absorb foreign languages more easily. The younger the child is introduced to a new language, the more likely it is that native-like pronunciation will be achieved. This ability stays with them until the onset of adolescence when physiological changes occurring in the brain, make it harder to learn a second language.

  • Future language learning will be easier.

Children who acquire a second language in the early years find it easier to learn other languages later on. There is much debate as to why this is, but research consistently shows that bilingual children acquire a third and even fourth language more successfully, even when they are older.

  • Better academic performance.

Bilingual children score more highly in math, verbal reasoning and logic tests. They tend to be successful learners and high academic achievers and often outperform their monolingual peers. I have seen this first hand when attending the prize giving at my daughter's high school. A large percentage of the academic awards are won by the bilingual pupils - far greater than the percentage this group of pupils represents as a whole within the school. One of the reasons for this academic success is because bilingual children have developed higher concentration levels. They are able to tune out distractions and remain focused in class which is a key skill to becoming a successful learner.

  • Better opportunities

In our growing global economy, people who can converse in more than one language will have a head start. Fluency in a second language will be an asset to children when they grow up, especially those who decide to work in international business or politics.



20% of the US population is bilingual.


Map of World Languages
Map of World Languages | Source

Ways To Introduce Your Child To A Second Language

If money isn't an issue, then a language immersion programme is the ideal way for a child to learn. This would involve your child attending a full immersion daycare or preschool and is an excellent way for child to learn a second language. However, most of us don't have that kind of money so here are some suggestions for introducing your child to a second language which don't cost the earth:

  • Songs and Nursery Rhymes

Young children love songs and rhymes and will enjoy learning the words to a song and singing along, no matter what language it is in.There are plenty of tapes, cds and dvds around that will help your child to pick up some words and phrases through action songs and nursery rhymes.

  • Interactive Learning

Nowadays, most young children will be familiar with a computer and may already have played games online. There are various resources online that will help you to introduce your little one to a second language and some of these are even free. One of these freebies is a new game called 'The Lingo Show', which has recently been introduced by the BBC on their Cbeebies website. Children are introduced to French, Spanish, Mandarin and many more languages with the help of a team of colourful bugs. My four year old daughter and I have been using this online game to learn some Mandarin and it really is a superb resource. Older children might enjoy learning through games that they can use on their handheld consoles, such as My Mandarin Coach and My Spanish Coach. Both of these games are very useful language learning tools and are reviewed very highly by customers on amazon.

  • Flash cards

Children learn effectively through words and pictures, so try using flash cards that have both the foreign word and the picture on them. If you don't speak the language then look for flash cards that come with an audio cd. You can pick these up online or make your own with card, a black marker pen and pictures cut out from magazines or catalogues. Parents can make up their own creative games to play with their children, using the flash cards as a learning tool. Take the lead from your child. My daughter loves animals and we often play an imaginative game of 'zoos' using the chinese flash cards and little animal figures. She will set up her animals around the room and label them with the relevant flash cards. This is a very simple game which my daughter loves playing because she devised it herself.

So What Are You Waiting For?

Many parents worry that learning a second language will interfere with their child's ability to learn their native language well. However the opposite is true! Research shows that bilingual children actually have a better grasp of their native language than their monolingual peers. Even if you are not bilingual yourself, there are many resources out there that you can use to help and support your child in learning another language. You can even learn along with your child which will be an excellent way of spending quality time together as well as being a very positive learning experience for both of you.

They may not become fully bilingual, but the important foundations will be laid for later should they wish to continue language learning into adulthood. The younger your child is when introduced to a second language the better, as they are avid and eager learners in the early years. Take advantage of this ability your child has to learn effectively whilst they're young by introducing them to a second language now.

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Comments 43 comments

livelonger profile image

livelonger 5 years ago from San Francisco

Terrific advice, and important. We live in an increasingly interconnected world, so facility in a few languages can really help you. Immersion programs are great if they're available nearby, but if they're not, the suggestions you've made would work great!

Maggie.L profile image

Maggie.L 5 years ago from UK Author

Many thanks for stopping by to read my hub and for your kind comments. As you said, immersion programmes are great but not always available or affordable. It's great that there are so many resources around now to help children learn a second language.

World-Traveler profile image

World-Traveler 5 years ago from USA

Learning to speak a second language is a wonderful way to explore a different culture. Your ideas are a great contribution and inspiration to others considering having family members learn a second language.

Maggie.L profile image

Maggie.L 5 years ago from UK Author

Thank you for reading amd commenting positively on my hub. You're quite right about it being wonderful to embrace and find out more about different cultures.

Nell Rose profile image

Nell Rose 5 years ago from England

Hi, this is great advice, I have often moaned at the fact that I never learned french at school until I was about 10 or eleven, I remember the words and a few sentences but always said I wish I had learned years earlier, great idea, I might even try the childrens learning on the internet! you know what they say, start at the bottom and work your way up! lol

Fay Paxton 5 years ago

Thanks so much for this great advice. I have two little grandsons whom I hope to introduce to a second language. Thanks for this excellent reference.

up and very useful

Maggie.L profile image

Maggie.L 5 years ago from UK Author

Nell Rose- Thanks for stopping by to read. I'm useless at languages and like you, wish I had the chance to learn when I was younger. The lingo show (there's a link in the hub above) is a brilliant children's language learning resource and I'm learning along with my wee one. Thanks for the following too. Much appreciated.

Maggie.L profile image

Maggie.L 5 years ago from UK Author

Fay - Thanks for popping in to read my hub and glad that you find it useful. I highly recommend 'the lingo show' on the cbeebies website (link is in my hub) as my little girl loves it and I'm learning alongside her. I'm sure your little grandsons would love it too.

cheerfulnuts profile image

cheerfulnuts 5 years ago from Manila, Philippines

You have given us excellent tips on introducing a 2nd language to children. I've seen on TV that when both parents are bilingual (e.g. English and French), parents can teach their kids these languages at the same time. However, to avoid confusing the kids, parents should only stick to one language when talking to their children. For example, dad will speak only in French with the kids, whereas mom will speak only in English. When I was younger, I was taught four languages at the same time. I remember mixing up some words from different languages in the same sentence. I was confused. I'm not 100% fluent in any of these languages, but I learn new languages pretty quickly and I got good grades in school. I wish your kids all the best! Good luck to you too on your Mandarin lessons! =)

Maggie.L profile image

Maggie.L 5 years ago from UK Author

Cheerfulnuts: That's right. My husband speaks to my young daughter in Cantonese all of the time and myself in English. She is picking up English at a much faster rate as she spends much more time with me and we live in an English speaking country (UK). Hopefully she will master languages well just like yourself, since she has been introduced to two languages at a young age. Thanks for popping in to read and for your kind comments.

Pamela99 profile image

Pamela99 5 years ago from United States

This is wonderful advice. As young children learn a new language more easily and they will do so without the American or other accent they were born with. My grandson has been speaking Spanish since he was 4 and has no accent because they lived in a foreign for a 5 years and they kept up the studies. Very good hub.

kimh039 profile image

kimh039 5 years ago

Great hub, Maggie L. My granddaughter is almost 1 and she loves when we sing nursery rhymes on my laptop. We go to You Tube and search kids songs. There are nursery rhymes in several languages there too. Thanks for the info about the relationship between language and other achievements.

cardelean profile image

cardelean 5 years ago from Michigan

These are great tips. My husband grew up in a bilingual home and he really does have a talent for speaking other languages. In high school he was able to take (and keep straight) 3 languages courses. This is a great website that you shared. I have not seen this one before, thanks.

Maggie.L profile image

Maggie.L 5 years ago from UK Author

Pamela - thanks for your kind comments. It's true that children that learn a foreign languag whilst young seem to be able to do it without trace of an accent.

Maggie.L profile image

Maggie.L 5 years ago from UK Author

kimh039 - Thanks for stopping by to read my hub. It sounds like you have great fun with your little granddaughter learning nursery rhymes in all different languages. When she is a little bit older, I'm sure she will love the lingo show game too - (the link is in my hub above).

Maggie.L profile image

Maggie.L 5 years ago from UK Author

cardelean - Thanks for reading and commenting on my hub. It's much appreciated. I envy your husband for having this talent and hope that my children can grow up with the same ability. I'm glad you like the website I mentioned. Cbeebies is a great educational website for kids and The Lingo Show game on it is great for encouraging children to learn new languages.

ripplemaker profile image

ripplemaker 5 years ago from Cebu, Philippines

You just reminded me about my forgotten mandarin lessons! LOL

Sesame Street Hubnuggets News: Congratulations on your Hubnuggets nomination. Do read and cast your vote by clicking on this link please:

butterflystar profile image

butterflystar 5 years ago from A Place of Success :)

Wonderful Hub, I wish my parents would have made me learn 5 languages :) I hope that my children will consider learning a few or at least one to appreciate other cultures in life very informative :)

Deborah Demander profile image

Deborah Demander 5 years ago from First Wyoming, then THE WORLD

Congratulations on your hubnugget nomination. You are exactly correct, learning languages early in life is much easier than in adulthood. Thanks for a good article.


FloraBreenRobison profile image

FloraBreenRobison 5 years ago

Congratulations. I took French in school but was never able to think in anything but English. I learned a lot more singing in other languages than I ever did in school.

wheelinallover profile image

wheelinallover 5 years ago from Central United States

Having been trilingual I agree that it is easier to learn languages when you are young. It in no way negatively affected the ability to use my primary language if anything it was enhanced.

In school learning Latin helped immensely with English, which was not my primary language. In my life the second and third languages did more to help me survive in a white mans world than the first did. My second language was Spanish the third English.

mib56789 5 years ago

TOTALLY AGREE with this HUB! Children should be encouraged to and can easily learn more than one language. When I delivered one of my children I had the good fortune of sharing a hospital room with a woman from Germany. She said "You Americans only speak English and want everyone to speak your language. In Europe most people know and speak fluently more than one language. Try to encourage your children to learn more than English." I tried! Some of them do. Some of them don't. Posted the link for this HUB to my Facebook profile. I speak a little Spanish, a little French because I'm from Miami, Florida. (A lot of Cubans, South Americans, Haitians and a few Canadians.) But I always wanted to learn more challenging languages like Russian, Chinese and Arabic. Never got around to it. Too many other priority tasks. But this HUB is definitely on track. You definitely give your child an edge or advantage if they learn a foreign language.

Just About It profile image

Just About It 5 years ago from southern CA

Great Hub! I watch programs with my son all the time that have a foreign language component. I LOVE the idea about getting some cds with songs in foreign languages.

justmesuzanne profile image

justmesuzanne 5 years ago from Texas

Great ideas and information! Voted up and useful! :)

Maggie.L profile image

Maggie.L 5 years ago from UK Author

ripplemaker:- I'm sure you still remember a lot of the Mandarin that you learned. Thanks for popping by to read my hub.

Maggie.L profile image

Maggie.L 5 years ago from UK Author

butterflystar: I too wish that I'd had the opportunity to learn more than one language. Thank you so much for your positive comments.

Maggie.L profile image

Maggie.L 5 years ago from UK Author

Deborah Demander: Thanks for reading my article. I'm thrilled about my hubnugget nomination although I was away for a few weeks while it was all happening, hence my late reply to yours and others comments. Apologies for that.

FloraBreenRobison: Hi, and thanks for taking the time to read my hub. Singing is a great way to pick up other languages too - especially if you enjoy singing a lot. I'm tone deaf so probably wouldn't work for me. Thanks for popping in to comment.

Maggie.L profile image

Maggie.L 5 years ago from UK Author

wheelinallover: I envy you being trilingual. That's amazing and I'm sure it must have widened your opportunities. Thanks for stopping by to read my hub.

Maggie.L profile image

Maggie.L 5 years ago from UK Author

mib56789 : Thanks for reading my hub, for your very encouraging comments and for linking it to your facebook profile. In the UK many of us also have this attitude that everyone should speak English and that there's no need to learn any other language. As you mentioned though, children who have the opportunity to learn more than one language will definitely have an advantage over their monolingual peers.

Maggie.L profile image

Maggie.L 5 years ago from UK Author

Just About It: Children love learning songs in other languages and I'm sure your son would enjoy this too. I also highly recommend 'The lingo show' game on the cbeebies website which gives you the opportunity to pick up vocabulary in various languages. There's a link for it in my hub. Thanks for your kind comments.

justmesuzanne profile image

justmesuzanne 5 years ago from Texas

Great information and good, practical ideas! Voted up and useful! :)

Maggie.L profile image

Maggie.L 5 years ago from UK Author

justmesuzanne: Thanks for reading my hub on introducing your children to a foreign language and for your positive comments.

mib56789 5 years ago

I love this HUB.

Maggie.L profile image

Maggie.L 5 years ago from UK Author

Thanks mib56789, for passing by to read my hub and glad you enjoyed reading it.

Creon 4 years ago

I can tell you firsthand that this is true because I am a bilingual child. My parents raised me with Mandarin and Indonesian (my native) and when I'm 5, I was enrolled in an English course taught by a native. Learning a third language fells much easier for me, and I'm grateful to God and my parents for this.

Emma 2 years ago

Love this have been trying to tell people the benefits of learning another language in early years no matter what the language as my daughter starts Irish medium education in September. I have been trying to learn bits myself and it's not easy whereas my daughter just picks it up so simply!

Maggie.L profile image

Maggie.L 2 years ago from UK Author

Hi Emma, Yes it's just so easy for kids to learn another language whilst us adults really struggle to take it in. Thanks for reading and commenting.

sadstill22 profile image

sadstill22 2 years ago from Hubpages, My World

thanks for reading my post. My son is learning Mandarin, his 2nd language which he is not fond of.

rasta1 profile image

rasta1 2 years ago from Jamaica

I hope to be bilingual in the future. I wish my parents had taught me Spanish or sent me on an exchange program to learn another language.

Maggie.L profile image

Maggie.L 2 years ago from UK Author

sadstill22 - My daughter is also learning Mandarin and also not enjoying it. She complains about having to go to school on Saturdays when all her friends are having fun! Hoefully, she'll be thankful one day that she's learned that extra language.

Maggie.L profile image

Maggie.L 2 years ago from UK Author

rasta1 - Yeah, I wish my parents had done the same for me. It's much harder to learn as an adult.

Thelma Alberts profile image

Thelma Alberts 2 years ago from Germany

Those are great advices. Learning other language from the start as a kid is good. As a multilingual person I can advice to the kids or even adults to learn other language as it has a lot of advantages especially when traveling. Great hub! Well done!

Maggie.L profile image

Maggie.L 2 years ago from UK Author

Thelma, thanks for your kind comments. You're so right in saying that there are a lot of advantages to learning a new language.

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