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Second Language Learning: Best Time to Learn, How, and Why

Updated on January 12, 2018
cclitgirl profile image

Cynthia is a writer, artist, and teacher. She loves studying language, arts, and culture, and sharing that knowledge.


Learning a Second Language

As someone who has taught Spanish to people from preschool age to adults (my oldest student was in her 90s!), learning a second language can be a challenging task. It’s also extremely rewarding and fun to be able to communicate in a language other than your native tongue.

Having years of experience teaching a second language, I’ve gained quite a few insights into figuring out the best time, methods and reasons why you should learn another language.

What’s the Best Time to Learn Another Language?

Being Younger Helps

In my experience, the younger you are when you learn a second language, the better.

Scientific studies suggest this, but I can tell you that after teaching hundreds and hundreds of students, I feel certain that this is the case.

Your Brain is Primed for Language at a Young Age

Consider this: when you’re a typical baby in the United States (and around the world for that matter), you do a lot of listening. Sure, you explore your world and coo and cry, but generally, you’re listening to what people are saying around you, or on TV, the radio, or via music. Your brain is literally primed to accept language as input.

Then, at about a year old , you start making simple words. After another year, you’re putting complex sentences together. Later, you learn to read and write, further increasing your language skills.

You spend most of your younger years listening and speaking, and then adding reading and writing as you get more advanced.

The So-called Language Channels

Now consider the fact that as you get older, you start to specialize in other skills. Your brain focuses less on language learning: it’s already learned what it needs to know. You develop other skills in school, sports, music, games, or other things.

Because your brain is now focused on learning other skills, it begins to shut down those “language channels.” Sure, you can still learn another language when you're older, but it has to happen while you’re doing lots of other things, too. The process is slower and it can be more difficult.

Let me give you some examples.

When I teach young children a second language, in this case Spanish, I can speak only in Spanish (well, most of the time) and they pick the language up through context. After awhile, they don’t bat an eye when I’m immersing them in Spanish. In fact, I can speak it all day long and they often happily adapt to the immersion.

I'm teaching a Spanish class to 5th grade.
I'm teaching a Spanish class to 5th grade. | Source

Have You Learned Another Language?

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Learning Later In Life Can Be Challenging

With high school students, it’s a lot different. While it’s easier to teach the actual mechanics of a language, I find that many older students are tentative about it.

They often don’t want to make mistakes in front of their peers and it takes many more repetitions of the same word or phrase for it to “stick.”

The same is true for adults, though I would say the number of times that the effort to memorize words and phrases is even greater.

They still experience success, for sure.

Often times, my older students have reported back to me on how much learning a second language helps them with English, as well. They become more aware of how they listen, speak, read and write.

When your brain hasn’t switched off its “language channels” as I like to call them, you can still gain native proficiency and sound like you learned the language as a native speaker.

Learning After Adolescence

It’s right around puberty when the brain starts to turn off its remarkable ability to acquire language easily. If you learn a language after that, you will not sound like a native speaker and it will be more difficult to gain native proficiency.

This is why, for example, Arnold Schwarzenegger still has a distinct accent. Though he has spent decades living in the United States and speaking English, he will always have an accent because he learned English after his language channels closed.

To be sure, a person can learn a language at any time. However, younger students’ brains are more primed to learn languages at that point in their lives.

What’s the Best Way to Learn Another Language?

Think about how you learned your native tongue. You listened and then repeated the words you heard all the time. You were immersed in it.

The same is true for learning another language.

You need to immerse yourself.

It can take up to two years of immersion to really, effectively learn most of the ins and outs of a particular language if it’s not your native tongue.

Professors that I have worked with tell me that this is the standard amount of time they need to spend in another country or immersion situation to really be good at that second language.

But what if you can’t immerse yourself?

You can still learn the language very well!

Undoubtedly, it takes years of studying another language to get pretty good at listening, speaking, reading and writing it.

Think about all the time you spent learning to read and write in English, and then all the vocabulary words you learned in school.

You Cannot Learn an Entire Language in a Month

If anyone tells you that you can learn a language in a month and be fluent, be very skeptical.

You can learn a lot in a month, but there’s no way you’re going to know tens of thousands of words in 30 days and how to use them in the proper order, not to mention all the idioms and cultural nuances.

The next best thing then is to take as many classes as you can in the second language and practice it as much as you can.

With younger children, schools that have dual-language immersion programs are a best bet. There are a number of schools around the United States that have such programs, both public and private.

It takes years of study to master a language well.
It takes years of study to master a language well. | Source

Knowing What You Know Now, When Should US Schools Incorporate Langauge Programs?

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FLES, FLEX, Middle and High School Programs

FLES and FLEX Programs

The next best option with younger children are “Foreign Language in the Elementary School” or FLES programs. The best FLES programs aim for second language classes 3-4 days per week, with 30 to 45 minutes of instruction as ideal.

If a school has less than those requirements, they turn into FLEX programs, where language exposure is the goal, but not language proficiency.

Middle School Programs

The next best time to learn is in middle school. The language centers in the brain haven’t fully formed, though they’re close. Having language classes as often as possible is key.

After middle school, it’s definitely still possible to learn another language; however, it will require more repetition and a willingness to make mistakes in the language.

Language Learning in High School

From experience, I can tell you that high school children and adults have a more difficult time with this.

At any point in the language learning process, it’s critical to speak, listen, write and read as much as possible in the second language.

I personally started learning Spanish when I was quite young. My mother spoke the language at home some, but did not teach me. It helped that I heard it all my life, however.

I started learning French and Spanish in middle school, and continued learning both languages throughout high school. I continued learning Spanish in various immersion-style situations in college and beyond.

I have another friend who was in her first year of learning Spanish in college.

She and her roommate decided to only speak Spanish to each other. They were so successful, they both were able to skip an entire year – Spanish II – and go right into Spanish III their sophomore year in college.

Language is Good for the Brain
Language is Good for the Brain | Source

Why Learn a Second Language?

Learning another language has so many benefits.

  • It helps you with your first language.

I have so many students who tell me that they learn about English because of the Spanish classes they take. It’s because you have to know things like parts of speech really well (nouns, adverbs, prepositions, for example) to be able to put words together properly in the second language. Then, when you understand parts of speech in your own language, you can formulate words in the second language by using the parts of speech.

  • It helps you to be more marketable for jobs and other professional endeavors.

Let’s say you’re looking at two candidates for a particular job to fill. They have the exact same qualifications except one is a bilingual English and Spanish speaker. Who would you hire?

The bilingual candidate can communicate and help that many more people.

  • Studies have shown that people who are exposed to more than one language have higher test scores across all subjects.

Indeed, schools that have programs in place with strong language programs – especially at the elementary level – have students who fare better on local and state-level exams. They even perform better in less obvious subjects such as math.

Did You Know?

Did you know that more people speak Mandarin than English and Spanish combined?

Did you know that there are more speakers of Hindi than there are English speakers, but more English speakers than Spanish speakers?

Did you know that the United States, United Kingdom and Australia do NOT have an official language?

Check out the page on the Most Spoken Languages of the World.

Maybe Mandarin should be the next language I should study!

Learning Another Language Has More Benefits

  • Knowing another language allows you to communicate with hundreds of thousands, possibly millions of people.

What a great feeling to know that you can travel to another country and speak the language and not have to rely on an interpreter or have your nose stuck in a translation dictionary.

When people visit your own country, it’s a great feeling knowing you can help them out by giving them directions to a bank or post office using their language.

If you’ve ever traveled abroad and found someone who spoke your first language, you’ll know how comforting it is.

  • Learning another language allows you to learn about other people and cultures in a way that is not possible in your native language.

For example, if you like poetry, there is something to be said for reading a poem in its original language. Some things just aren’t translatable because you’re communicating an essence or a feeling that can only be expressed through that cultural perspective.

When I read Spanish poetry, for example, the eloquence and cultural understanding expressed in the words makes the poem come alive. When you translate a poem to English, something is always lost, and vice-versa.

Many more reasons exist to learn another language, but with time and practice, it’s always possible.

© 2013 Cynthia Calhoun


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    • cclitgirl profile imageAUTHOR

      Cynthia Calhoun 

      15 months ago from Western NC

      Thank you, Marma. Yes, having taught everyone from PreK through college, I can say that, yes, you're right when it comes to adult learning and memorization there. I often tell my classes that the most challenging part is going to be remembering the vocabulary in general. They have to hear, see, and repeat it many, many times to memorize. Thanks for commenting! :)

    • Marma profile image


      15 months ago from United States

      Great article! I have taught high school level and worked individually with adults. With adults, the most challenging issue has been having the memorize vocabulary.

    • profile image

      Ali A Naser 

      20 months ago from Syria

      Loving to learn other language is very important. with out desire, adults could not learn new language's vocabulary with its new and different component elements.

      I was a student in Bulgaria when a 67 year old Bulgarian doctor asked me to learn him Arabic. I had very lovely two years time to teach him my mother language. After graduation, he started to send letters in Arabic.

    • cclitgirl profile imageAUTHOR

      Cynthia Calhoun 

      6 years ago from Western NC

      Vicki - Immersion is really good and for young children, it's ideal. :) I think we have it wrong here in the US: we need to do foreign languages at a young age and not just require it in high school. :)

    • Victoria Lynn profile image

      Victoria Lynn 

      6 years ago from Arkansas, USA

      This is veeery interesting! It's so true--the younger, the better. I wish public schools would start with foreign languages in elementary school. I was never in an immersion situation, so I never became fluent, even though I taught Spanish for a few years. Immersion is the way to go!

      Great hub!

    • cclitgirl profile imageAUTHOR

      Cynthia Calhoun 

      6 years ago from Western NC

      Kathleen - I'm convinced that the more we're exposed to languages at a young age, the more it "primes" our brains to accept languages later on, too. So, it's not surprising that your daughter is fluent in three languages. Not only that, the exposure to another culture and different activities may have just made her naturally more open to learning. :) Have a great day!

    • Kathleen Cochran profile image

      Kathleen Cochran 

      6 years ago from Atlanta, Georgia

      Cindi: I have an adult daughter who is fluent in three languages. We lived in Germany when she was a toddler and I'm convinced that exposer programed her brain to receive languages (even though German is not one of her languages). Her training in piano and math may have contributed to her abilities, from what I've read. Where do you stand on those theories?

    • cclitgirl profile imageAUTHOR

      Cynthia Calhoun 

      7 years ago from Western NC

      Julie - that's great! I really want to take a look at that app. But you know, I'm a firm believer that if you learned a second language at a young age, another language will come more easily - so yes, there's LOTS of hope. :)

      Lisa - Thank you so much! You're in...California? That makes sense that they all speak Spanish over there. Hehe. Eh, it was all part of Mexico at one point. Thank you so much for your sweet words! Have a wonderful day!

    • Rusticliving profile image

      Liz Rayen 

      7 years ago from California

      Hola Cyndi! (is that right?) That's about all I know and if that is wrong..then I know absolutely nuttin! LOL.... It is ironic that I saw this hub as My hunny and I were just talking about taking a course in spanish so we could understand the Walmart Greeters better. They are so nice..but all speak Spanish..*L* I love your entire motivation with this hub.. It has gotten me muy excitado! Voted up and sharing my little hummingbird!♥

    • Jools99 profile image

      Jools Hogg 

      7 years ago from North-East UK

      Cyndi, great hub. I learnt to speak French from the age of 7 to 16 but I can remember very little of it because I have only visited France once and everyone spoke English. I am determined to learn a language so that I can at least 'get by' if I visit. I learnt German for two years at school as well and am currently relearning German, Spanish and French through an ipod Apple app called Mind Snacks (? I think) which is basically a set of comprehension 'games' in a foreign language. Because the games are really good fun, I find that I want to switch on my ipod every day so I suppose that's a good start. I wish I had learned more Spanish at school instead of French, I have visited Spain about twelve times and France only once! Learning when you're young is key I think - but I live in hope :o)

    • cclitgirl profile imageAUTHOR

      Cynthia Calhoun 

      7 years ago from Western NC

      Second Language - thank you for your insights. I agree: the people more likely to read this are already more vested in the outcome of learning a language. I wrote it, however, in response to my school district possibly contracting the language program and I had to "prove" it was beneficial...and it worked. Yippee! hehe. Have a great day!

    • Second Language profile image

      Anita Rai 

      7 years ago

      Great hub with good information. I wonder, however, if we are simply preaching to the converted here. It is so sad that so many people -- especially English speakers -- don't see the need to learn another language.

      Anyhow, great hub and keep up the great work.

    • cclitgirl profile imageAUTHOR

      Cynthia Calhoun 

      7 years ago from Western NC

      LOL...Kelly - I can imagine you were such a wonderful student. :) And Spanish movies and soap operas? Oh my, they win the prize for dramatic expression. HAHAHA. Thanks for comin' by.

    • RealHousewife profile image

      Kelly Umphenour 

      7 years ago from St. Louis, MO

      I love languages...I did learn a little Spanish in 4th grade but I remember it still! I took French in college but I still want to learn Spanish. I listen to movies in Spanish while I clean sometimes...I haven't a clue what they are saying but I love their facial expression:) lol

    • cclitgirl profile imageAUTHOR

      Cynthia Calhoun 

      7 years ago from Western NC

      Carozy - thank you for your insights. That's great about your roommate. I hear that Japanese and Chinese are among the most difficult for people who speak English to learn (and other similar Romance and Germanic languages) so all my admiration goes out to him for sure. I think with immersion will come a lot more fluency. :)

      Escobana - that's remarkable that you know four languages. I love it! I'm still not done learning Spanish and I will always want to learn more for sure. You're right: you need to like books and grammar. I definitely love both! :)

      Torrilynn - Well said. Thank you so much for coming by. I appreciate your kind words and input.

    • torrilynn profile image


      7 years ago

      I agree that learninga second language is duable and can also be fun

      it all depends on what type of learner you are and the method you choose to learn by

      i also agree that learning a second language at a younger age is also true

      thanks for the information.

      Voted up

    • Escobana profile image


      7 years ago from Valencia

      Great Hub and very informative. Learning second languages at an older age is definitely more challeging.

      I speak four languages fluently only because it's my passion and because I keep immerging myself. To spend time in the country and to keep practicing with my different friends.

      If you don't have the possibility to immerse yourself it's impossible to really learn the language fluently. I like your tips and reasons for why learning a second language is so good to do. is a study. A serious one and I always say...if you don't like books and grammar, choose something else you like to study.

      Voted up, shared and very useful!

    • carozy profile image


      7 years ago from San Francisco

      Excellent article on language learning. I learned somethings and appreciate your experience. My roommate spent the last year and a half learning Japanese and reached about an intermediate level but never felt confident conversationally. Today he's off to Japan to teach English and I think the immersion into the Japanese culture will help him immensely. I'll pass this article along to him. Voted up, interesting and useful!

    • cclitgirl profile imageAUTHOR

      Cynthia Calhoun 

      7 years ago from Western NC

      StellaSee - you know, some people have a natural affinity to learn languages and so yes, I think it's entirely possible to gain native fluency if you're exposed to it enough. :) It's as you said: the motivation that counts. :)

    • StellaSee profile image


      7 years ago from California

      Hi CC, do you know if our 'language channels' can be just as active when you're in high school as when you were younger? I have a few friends who came over to the US when they were in high school, but their English proficiency is almost like a native (I know one of them had been taking like an English prep class so maybe that's part of the reason) and also for me personally, I started taking Spanish in high school and I'm not fluent in it, but I can still pick up what people are saying, unlike German which I started learning in college but I completely forgot now!

      Your roommate's story reminds me of my friend who was a linguistics major and studied Spanish and French in school and independent studied German. Sometimes she tries to get me to talk in German with her, but I have to tell her 'no me gusta aleman hablamos en español!'

      But the most important thing like you say, is to want to keep improving your language skills, not the age you start learning. I went to a Japanese school till I was in high school but it's sad how I don't speak at the level of a twentysomething year old college graduate!

    • cclitgirl profile imageAUTHOR

      Cynthia Calhoun 

      7 years ago from Western NC

      Nell - that is tres bien! I love speaking French...wish I knew more. :) I'll bet that if you find yourself immersed again, you'd pick it right back up - the brain has a way of putting words back together and remembering once it's been exposed to the words. :)

      Aykianink - oh yes! My college had "language houses" where the college had bought up a few neighborhood houses so that the people living in those houses (technically dorms) would only speak the target language. There was the Spanish house, the French house and the Mandarin house. I think they had another one, but it was a multilingual one. I WISH I could have participated in that. :)

    • aykianink profile image


      7 years ago

      I saw this thing on the news. I don't remember the name for it. Essentially, at certain college campuses, there are entire dorms where each floor has its own language. For instance, the third floor is the Spanish floor. Aside from "Fire" and "Help" everyone speaks Spanish 100% of the time. (There's a dictionary or two in the hallway.) I can't tell you how ridiculously cool that is to me.

    • Nell Rose profile image

      Nell Rose 

      7 years ago from England

      I learned to speak French in my school, and I do remember being really annoyed that the schools I had attended had not taught us from an early age. I was quite good at learning it but as you said, when we get older our brains cannot process it properly. I remember going to Tangiers and being able to chat quite easily in French as its one of their main languages, but now I have totally forgotten it, if we had learned at a young age I would have kept it up and would know it now, great hub and voted up!

    • cclitgirl profile imageAUTHOR

      Cynthia Calhoun 

      7 years ago from Western NC

      Teaches - I should have known - you are nothing short of amazing! I love teaching, too. It's so much fun figuring people out, what makes them tick and the ins and outs of teaching make life interesting. Thank you so much for your awesome feedback!

    • teaches12345 profile image

      Dianna Mendez 

      7 years ago

      Cyndi, I had a mirrored background of your home: we spoke only Spanish and it was easy to write and read as we grew older. This also helped us to learn English (and French for some of us) quicker. Great information and tips on how to teach Spanish. Love your points on why it is easier to learn a second language when you have a strong primary language. Voted up!

    • cclitgirl profile imageAUTHOR

      Cynthia Calhoun 

      7 years ago from Western NC

      Born2care2001 - likewise! Cheers and best wishes for a wonderful 2013!

    • Born2care2001 profile image

      Rev Bruce S Noll HMN 

      7 years ago from Asheville NC

      Ach du lieber

      Have Fun!

    • cclitgirl profile imageAUTHOR

      Cynthia Calhoun 

      7 years ago from Western NC

      Born2Care2001 - de rien! Merci aussi! :) Thank you for your awesome feedback and yes, it's also my experience that when you're in another country, no matter where you're from, if you attempt to speak the language, it just makes people warm up to you, you know? It is truly fun to say hello, thank you and good-bye...I want to go to Sweden or Germany next. Hehe.

    • Born2care2001 profile image

      Rev Bruce S Noll HMN 

      7 years ago from Asheville NC

      Merci Beaucoup Cyndi!

      Vous aites vraiment intelligent! Fabulously written and well presented! I have found in my business travels that people from other countries tend to respond better to Americans if they make the attempt to learn their language, even if only superficially and temporarily. And why wouldn't it? It demonstrates a desire to get to know them and their culture.

      Though I do not remember most of what I learned in high school it has always been fun to learn to say hello, goodbye and thank you!

      Merci, madam, Merci!

      Voted up +

    • cclitgirl profile imageAUTHOR

      Cynthia Calhoun 

      7 years ago from Western NC

      Glimmer Twin Fan - Right there with you! Knowing another language can even help you in situations where you don't know the language spoken because you've figured out how to communicate without knowing the exact words you need. I'd have a lot more confidence travelling to Norway, for example, knowing Spanish and some French because you can certainly pick up a few words and recognize others that are similar in sound and structure. Thanks you!

      Aykianink - I think with language, no matter the situation, it needs to be a pleasurable learning experience and you need to have some motivation to learn it. Thus, I try to make it really fun for my students. However, even as an adult, you can learn a language if you're highly motivated to do so and you have that willingness to do what it takes to learn. :)

      Aviannovice - thank you. :) It can be tough learning other languages. I once went to the Philippines where they speak Tagalog. I don't speak any Tagalog, but I was motivated to learn a few key phrases and words to help me while I was there. I still remember them and occasionally use those phrases when I encounter someone who is Filipino. :)

      Tillsontitan - That's great! The world is shrinking, too. I love your choice of words there, haha. I'm impressed that your grandson can count to ten in four languages! I really want to learn how in Mandarin, hehe. Thank you so much for stopping by!

    • tillsontitan profile image

      Mary Craig 

      7 years ago from New York

      Bill and I have so much in common (growing up-wise)...I had three years of Latin and two of French. I heard German as a kid but not enough to know more than a few cuss words and phrases. My grandson can count to ten in four languages and knows some other words in each of those languages as well.

      I agree with you 200 per cent. The earlier you learn a second language the easier it is. Everyone should know a second language to help them in our shrinking world.

      Voted up, useful, and totally interesting.

    • aviannovice profile image

      Deb Hirt 

      7 years ago from Stillwater, OK

      Great material, Cyndi. I really don't like learning other languages, but I think I could probably do it if I were forced to do it. For example, if I really wanted to go to Italy, I would learn Italian while there.

    • aykianink profile image


      7 years ago

      Okay, you're a teacher so I'd really like your opinion. My parents tried to get me to go to a language school AFTER normal school. Like any other child, I was extremely defiant and didn't want 'extra' homework. In college however, my work ethic was even stronger. I learned a lot in college.

      Do you feel the adult work ethic compensates for the natural ability that a child brings to the table?

    • Glimmer Twin Fan profile image

      Claudia Mitchell 

      7 years ago

      Useful, up and shared. I am a firm believer that everyone should know a second language. One learns so much about other cultures. I also think it's helpful because there may come a time when you are traveling and need to speak. English is my first language and I know some German and was a French major and it is amazing how much knowing a language can help in other countries.

    • cclitgirl profile imageAUTHOR

      Cynthia Calhoun 

      7 years ago from Western NC

      Alocsin - that's great! I know you speak Tagalog, right? I learned a few words while over there some time ago. Learning it to travel is a great idea! :)

    • alocsin profile image

      Aurelio Locsin 

      7 years ago from Orange County, CA

      I agree that learning when young tends to make language learning more effective. But I'm in my 50s and love learning new languages -- my advice is to do it when you travel, so you have incentive to use the language you learned. Voting this Up and Useful.

    • cclitgirl profile imageAUTHOR

      Cynthia Calhoun 

      7 years ago from Western NC

      Paul - though you speak of learning Thai later on in life, you are the perfect example of what language learning can be - it's relevant to you and you're motivated to learn because you're married to a Thai. The fact that you have other languages under your belt will only help. It is said that learning a second language is the hardest when compared to learning a 3rd, 4th or even 5th. Bravo! Terrific feedback here - thank you for your input!

    • cclitgirl profile imageAUTHOR

      Cynthia Calhoun 

      7 years ago from Western NC

      BB - that's awesome! I took a Roots of English class in high school and I'll never forget how much that has helped me discern words in English, Spanish and French. Languages are so valuable in countless ways!

    • cclitgirl profile imageAUTHOR

      Cynthia Calhoun 

      7 years ago from Western NC

      Chris - I love your comprehensive feedback. All of them are spot-on and all are insightful. I am thrilled that your experiences coincide with my own in that immersion is a wonderful way to learn a language. I hope to make it back over to Europe sometime to polish up my French and add to my Spanish. :)

    • Paul Kuehn profile image

      Paul Richard Kuehn 

      7 years ago from Udorn City, Thailand


      This is an awesome analysis of when the best time is to learn a new language. I completely agree that the earlier you start learning a language, the easier it will be and fluency will be better. When I was in my early 20s, I started to learn Chinese Mandarin, and when I was 30, I learned the Taiwanese dialect of Chinese. At the age of 58, I started to learn the Thai language. Thai was much harder for me to learn than either Mandarin or Taiwanese. I still struggle with aural comprehension in Thai, and pronunciation and use of correct tones in speaking. Yes, immersion in a language preferrably in the country where it is spoken is very important. However, what is more important is using the foreign language actively to satisfy personal needs. Although I live in Thailand married to a Thai, it is still difficult for me to completely comprehend everything I hear on TV or spoken by friends. It seems that I can make out all of the sounds and words. The problem is putting everything together to make sense out of it. Maybe it's because I know that I can fall back on English to satisfy my needs. Maybe what I need to do is live in an environment where no one speaks English, so I am forced to use Thai to satisfy my personal needs. Voted up and sharing with followers.

    • billybuc profile image

      Bill Holland 

      7 years ago from Olympia, WA

      Great information Cyndi, from someone who knows what she is talking about. I have four years of Latin and one year of French; does that count for anything? LOL Actually, the Latin has been valuable my entire life, so no regrets on that.

    • CHRIS57 profile image


      7 years ago from Northern Germany

      I am neither a linguist nor a teacher, but i would agree with you that learning a language as early as possible is the best you can do. However to do something implies a willful act and an toddler picking up words from his surrounding is not what i would call i willful act :-)

      Anyhow, i can contribute a little to this topic from personal experience.

      1. I am native German, but was raised in the US from age 11 to 17. What am i to say: Native speaker for both English and German. Apparently 11 years was early enough to fully absorb English and at the same time separate languages in the brain. I don´t translate, i just use one or the other language.

      2. I know this is important because our kids were raised in a bilingual family. My wife is Russian and we live in Germany, both of us speak and use either language. Interesting to see what happened to our kids. From the age 2.5 to lets say 4 years, the kids spoke a mixture of vocabulary and grammar of both languages. They picked a word or a phrase from one language and used grammar flexing of the other language. As our youngest son expressed one day when he came home from Kindergarten: " There is a new boy in our group. I don´t know why, i understand what he is saying, but all others do not understand a word." As it turned out, a boy from Russian imigrants had come to his Kindergarten group. Our son had no idea, that he had learned two seperate languages. For me it was a clear indicator that both languages were aquired and stored unstructured.

      3. I think you make a good point about immersion time. I believe this time frame is very important for adults, or for foreign language learners in adualt age. I aquired my forth language (third is French) Russian in my 20ties. It took me some time to really get into the language, more than one year. Until today i speak with a certain accent. Native speakers put me to be from some baltic republic of former Soviet Union. And i can try and try, i don´t even realize where my accent is wrong. Must be the Schwarzenegger effect.

      4. A last one about language immersion. Having the privilege of speaking 4 languages, here is a little anecdote about not having immersed a language: French. This Christmas my company arranged for a great Christmas banquet. Management, employees and representatives from our foreign operations were invited. I had decided to sit at the table with our French collegues. We started the evening, had good discussions and i mentioned that my French would improve later at night with the amount of alcohol consumed. What am i to tell you: Did not happen. As the evening progressed, French disappeared and Russian popped up. Certainly not very entertaining in a French speaking group.

      You picked up a good an useful topic. I agree with what you write. Voted up. Thank you.

    • cclitgirl profile imageAUTHOR

      Cynthia Calhoun 

      7 years ago from Western NC

      Natasha - number four! That is AWESOME! I admire you. :) What languages do you know?

      Janine - Italian you say? My maiden name is Italian. Haha. Yeah, it pays to learn a language early. I really think ALL elementary schools should offer a language and have it optional at the high school level - the opposite of what we have now. :P lol

    • Janine Huldie profile image

      Janine Huldie 

      7 years ago from New York, New York

      I have to agree about what you said about learning a second language. I was raised hearing others in my family speak Italian and knew some words here and there from it, but actually didn't learn the full language until I was in high school. That said I wish I would have learned sooner, because as much as I learned I don't remember nearly as much as I wish I did. I hope my kids are offered a second language in elementary school, because at least they'd have a fighting chance. Have of course voted this up and shared all over!!

    • Natashalh profile image


      7 years ago from Hawaii

      I agree that learning a second language can improve one's understanding of his/her native tongue. It was the case for me! I'm currently trying to study a fourth foreign language! It's starting to blurt together a little in my mind.


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