Speaking Another Language

Have you considered teaching your baby a second language? Many families have at least one parent whose first language is not the same as the language native to the country they live in. Often, parents would like to teach their child this second language.

Advantages of a Second Language
Teaching your child a second language can have many benefits. If the language is one spoken by other family members, then it can provide your child with a connection to her heritage. It can also be helpful later in life, when your child is grown up and entering the career world. With so many companies doing business around the world, any extra language skills she may have will come in handy someday.

Speaking a second language may also help your child learn grammar and reading rules faster. It can improve a child's self-image and might even get his brain thinking in new ways. So, when should you start teaching this new language?

When Do You Start?
Many parents worry that introducing a second language too soon will cause confusion and maybe even hinder their child's language development. Therefore, they avoid introducing the second language right from birth. However, these worries are unfounded. While speaking to your child in two languages regularly and consistently may give the appearance of your child's language developing at a slower rate, rarely is this true.

There are no intellectual delays caused by learning two languages simultaneously from birth. Also, a child may appear to have a smaller vocabulary in one language than what the language development guidelines suggest. This can cause parents to worry. However, look at the bigger picture. Your child can probably say just as many words between the two languages as a child that only speaks one language.

It has been found, though, that children who speak two languages may take longer to learn the basic rules of grammar. But this is only temporary; by the age of five, this problem has usually disappeared.

Some experts say that waiting until your child is two- or three-years-old to introduce the second language is better. They argue that, by this time, your child has a good grasp of one language. As a result, introducing the second language will have little impact on the first.

Others have pointed out that teaching a child a second language anytime before the age of ten is ideal. Up to this age, it has been found that children can pick up the language pretty quickly and not have an accent. After this, it can be more difficult to learn another language and even harder to speak it without an accent.

Regardless of when you decide to start introducing that second language, all the experts agree that it is important to make sure your child learns the language from someone who is fluent in the language, ideally a parent. Learning a second language from a person who cannot speak it very well themselves will cause your child to learn the language improperly.

The Best Classroom
Children learn a language best when they are immersed in it. Therefore, it is natural that the best setting for a child to learn a second language is in their own home. If you or your partner speak another language, then speak to your child in that language often. Don't try to sit them down and "teach" the language, just speak and interact with them. Look for books in the second language so you can engage them that way, also. If there are other people in your neighborhood or other family relatives that you see often who speak the second language, encourage them to speak it with your child. If it's possible, take a trip to the country where the language is native.

If both you and your partner speak the same foreign and native languages fluently, then you may choose to only speak the foreign language at home. For instance, if you live in the United States and both you and your partner speak German in addition to English, you may choose to only speak German at home. This is done with the understanding that your child will learn English at a later time.

While the ideal is to have a child learn a second language from a parent who is fluent, they can also learn from their grandparents, aunts, uncles, or someone else who has regular contact with them.

Beyond Speaking
Fluently speaking a second language definitely gives your child an advantage. Being able to also read and write in that language will infinitely aid your child in the future, both in her personal life and in her career.

When your child gets older, start looking around for classes that can teach reading and writing skills in the second language to your child. If there isn't one available near where you live, then consider tutoring or buying a computer language program.

Being bilingual, or even multilingual, can open up a world of exciting doors for your child. If you and/or your partner are bilingual, then give your child the opportunity to be bilingual as well.