ArtsAutosBooksBusinessEducationEntertainmentFamilyFashionFoodGamesGenderHealthHolidaysHomeHubPagesPersonal FinancePetsPoliticsReligionSportsTechnologyTravel

When and How to Teach Your Kids a Foreign Language

Updated on September 9, 2016

I am bilingual myself, besides during my life, I mastered a couple of more languages. Though I don't have children yet, observing the kids of my relatives and friends, I'm already thinking how to incorporate several languages into my future child's early education. Especially, since I live in the U.S. and my native language is Russian, I would like my child to speak fluently at least English and Russian.

I'ts not a news, that children learn foreign languages much easier than adults. And coming from multilingual culture, I've seen kids who are fluent in 3 or 4 languages, which makes me believe that with proper education you can make your child not just bilingual, but multilingual, which would make his or her life much easier later on.

When to start teaching a child foreign language

Actually, the sooner, the better. The thing is that it was proved that we employ different parts of a brain when we learn the language in childhood than in teenage or adult years. Those who learned the language in infancy, perceive it as a whole without dividing it into grammar and vocabulary, they also perfectly mimic and memorize the pronunciation and intonation of a language. They basically perceive and learn the native and foreign languages the same way.

Here are some examples from real life

My grandparents talked to my mom on 2 different languages from her childhood. My grandpa used Russian all the time, my grandma used Armenian. As a result, my mom mastered both. Actually, until now she speaks to her dad only in Russian, and to her mom only in Armenian.

I am from Ukraine, and the main language I was spoken to as a child was Russian, but since I'm originally Armenian, when I visited my relatives, I constantly was influenced by Armenian-speaking environment. Now I understand Armenian perfectly well though nobody specifically taught me this language. However, since nobody actually talked to me in Armenian, and nobody expected to hear something back from me in Armenian, I perceived the language only by listening. As a result, I understand it perfectly well, but speak very little.

When I was 6 I started going to school, it was right after the Soviet Union collapse. Suddenly Russian lost its power as the most important language, and the national languages of each now independent country started to be used on the state level. Ukrainian schools suddenly started to use Ukrainian as a main language. I went to school even without knowing that such language as "Ukrainian" exists. I remember my first reading classes, when I encountered a couple of unfamiliar letters and later realized how they are read. By the way, I didn't feel any stress or something like that because of not knowing or understanding something. Everything seemed quite natural to me. I don't remember how and when, but in a couple of years I realized that I am fluent in Ukrainian. That's even though Ukrainian was used only in schools (at home and on the street most of the people used Russian). Now I speak and "feel" it the same way as Russian, as native language.

I have many relatives who moved from Armenia to Ukraine with their kids, who were born and raised in Armenian-speaking environment without knowing any other language. It's amazing how quickly (actually in a matter of a couple of months) they became trilingual, using Armenian at home, Russian with their friends and Ukrainian at school or kindergarten.

How to teach a child a foreign language

Of course you should not explain the peculiarities of grammar and vocabulary to a 3-year old. The learning should occur in a natural way.

It is great if you have a multilingual family where you and you partner, or your parents can speak to a child in different languages. If this is not a case, you can find a babysitter who is fluent in a language which you would like your child to know and ask her to speak to a child only in this language.

You can also help your child learn by using different fun learning tools designed specifically for babies or toddlers, like an award-winning foreign language learning series for babies, toddlers and preschoolers Little Pim.

Are there any disadvantages in teaching a young child foreign language?

I would not say there are disadvantages in teaching your child a foreign language. But there certainly are some things yo should pay attention to.

For instance, most of the kids who are introduced to two or more languages simultaneously start to speak a little later than those who use only one language. It seems as though a child needs some more time to adjust and "digest" all the information which is presented to him.

Also there might be some problems of "mixing" two or more languages when the child will just start to speak. For example, he or she may at first combine words from different languages into one sentence. This flaw will also go away with the time, but to minimize this risk from the very beginning, you should use one simple rule - never mix different languages yourself when talking to a child or in a child's presence. If you start a sentence in one language, continue and finish it in the same language.


I believe that in a contemporary global world, the knowledge of foreign languages is very important. I also believe that being bilingual and developing fluency in at least one foreign language as a child, you will learn more languages much easier in the future. The scientists say that the best age for foreign language learning is before your child is 9. What do you think? Do you have any examples or may be your personal experience in bilingualism or multilingualism?

Comments

    0 of 8192 characters used
    Post Comment

    • holdmycoffee profile image

      holdmycoffee 

      7 years ago

      Very nice hub. However, being a mother of two, I found it difficult to teach Russian to my kids. I moved to America when I was a child and while Russian is my first language, English is now easier for me. Very few Russians live in the area where I live; I am married to an American; and we cannot afford to have Russian channels on tv. This leaves two options: internet programs and talking to kids in Russian. I find myself constantly switching back to English because I know they understand me better - and I want to be understood.

      Before I had children, I told everyone that they will be speaking Russian. Six years and two kids later, I realized it is a lot harder to accomplish than I thought.

      Good luck to you in your hubs.

    • kerlynb profile image

      kerlynb 

      7 years ago from Philippines, Southeast Asia, Earth ^_^

      " The thing is that it was proved that we employ different parts of a brain when we learn the language in childhood than in teenage or adult years." - Oh thank you for telling us about this! It's just that some of my folks would insist on teaching the kids Filipino first and English in high school! I insist on teaching them early on in life. I've taught them English since they were infants. Thank you, thank you for this :)

    working

    This website uses cookies

    As a user in the EEA, your approval is needed on a few things. To provide a better website experience, hubpages.com uses cookies (and other similar technologies) and may collect, process, and share personal data. Please choose which areas of our service you consent to our doing so.

    For more information on managing or withdrawing consents and how we handle data, visit our Privacy Policy at: https://hubpages.com/privacy-policy#gdpr

    Show Details
    Necessary
    HubPages Device IDThis is used to identify particular browsers or devices when the access the service, and is used for security reasons.
    LoginThis is necessary to sign in to the HubPages Service.
    Google RecaptchaThis is used to prevent bots and spam. (Privacy Policy)
    AkismetThis is used to detect comment spam. (Privacy Policy)
    HubPages Google AnalyticsThis is used to provide data on traffic to our website, all personally identifyable data is anonymized. (Privacy Policy)
    HubPages Traffic PixelThis is used to collect data on traffic to articles and other pages on our site. Unless you are signed in to a HubPages account, all personally identifiable information is anonymized.
    Amazon Web ServicesThis is a cloud services platform that we used to host our service. (Privacy Policy)
    CloudflareThis is a cloud CDN service that we use to efficiently deliver files required for our service to operate such as javascript, cascading style sheets, images, and videos. (Privacy Policy)
    Google Hosted LibrariesJavascript software libraries such as jQuery are loaded at endpoints on the googleapis.com or gstatic.com domains, for performance and efficiency reasons. (Privacy Policy)
    Features
    Google Custom SearchThis is feature allows you to search the site. (Privacy Policy)
    Google MapsSome articles have Google Maps embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
    Google ChartsThis is used to display charts and graphs on articles and the author center. (Privacy Policy)
    Google AdSense Host APIThis service allows you to sign up for or associate a Google AdSense account with HubPages, so that you can earn money from ads on your articles. No data is shared unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
    Google YouTubeSome articles have YouTube videos embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
    VimeoSome articles have Vimeo videos embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
    PaypalThis is used for a registered author who enrolls in the HubPages Earnings program and requests to be paid via PayPal. No data is shared with Paypal unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
    Facebook LoginYou can use this to streamline signing up for, or signing in to your Hubpages account. No data is shared with Facebook unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
    MavenThis supports the Maven widget and search functionality. (Privacy Policy)
    Marketing
    Google AdSenseThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Google DoubleClickGoogle provides ad serving technology and runs an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Index ExchangeThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    SovrnThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Facebook AdsThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Amazon Unified Ad MarketplaceThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    AppNexusThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    OpenxThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Rubicon ProjectThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    TripleLiftThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Say MediaWe partner with Say Media to deliver ad campaigns on our sites. (Privacy Policy)
    Remarketing PixelsWe may use remarketing pixels from advertising networks such as Google AdWords, Bing Ads, and Facebook in order to advertise the HubPages Service to people that have visited our sites.
    Conversion Tracking PixelsWe may use conversion tracking pixels from advertising networks such as Google AdWords, Bing Ads, and Facebook in order to identify when an advertisement has successfully resulted in the desired action, such as signing up for the HubPages Service or publishing an article on the HubPages Service.
    Statistics
    Author Google AnalyticsThis is used to provide traffic data and reports to the authors of articles on the HubPages Service. (Privacy Policy)
    ComscoreComScore is a media measurement and analytics company providing marketing data and analytics to enterprises, media and advertising agencies, and publishers. Non-consent will result in ComScore only processing obfuscated personal data. (Privacy Policy)
    Amazon Tracking PixelSome articles display amazon products as part of the Amazon Affiliate program, this pixel provides traffic statistics for those products (Privacy Policy)