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Is There a Minimum Age for Learning Spanish?

From Jon, published on 20/02/2018 Blog > Languages > Spanish > When Should You Start Teaching Your Children Spanish?

The Spanish language is one of the most widely spoken languages in the world. In fact, the language is as widespread as English and there are Spanish speaking countries in Europe, Africa, and the Americas.

It might be worthwhile teaching your child Spanish from a young age. But when is the best time to start teaching them Spanish? What do the experts say? Should I start digging out my grammar books from school?

There’s No Minimum Age for Teaching Spanish

Lots of parents ask about when the best time for teaching a language is. Should I teach them even if I’m not bilingual? If this is the case: will I be able to teach them enough? Can a baby even do a Spanish course?

A lot of parents ask about how difficult life is with a child learning two languages. Is it too much for them? Will it affect their level in English? Will they be able to distinguish between the vocabulary of the two languages?

We’re going to answer all these questions here, starting with the first one that was answered by linguists: There’s no minimum age for learning Spanish.

Which are the best ways to learn Spanish? Learning Spanish can give your child the best start. (Source: Tim Gouw)

Child and language acquisition experts have established the best starting point for learning a foreign language. It’s recommended that you start as soon as they’re born, teaching them the language alongside English.

Speaking Spanish non-stop to your child might be a bit frustrating in the beginning but it’s the best thing you can do for them if you want them to learn the language.

During their first years, even if the child isn’t able to speak, they’re listening and picking up lots of Spanish vocabulary. It’s important to get their ears accustomed to the Spanish accent. Step by step.

This is how they’ll be able to become fluent in Spanish. The other parent will be able to talk to them in English, working together to teach them both languages simultaneously. This is how bilingual parenting works. You don’t need to start showing them Spanish grammar until they’re older. Just talk to them in their new language and before you know it, they’ll learn to speak.

Bilingual Families

If there isn’t a Spanish speaker in your home, it’s important that you follow the example set by bilingual families. A baby can learn to speak Spanish even if there are no Spanish speakers living in the house. However, you will have to rely on a wider array of methods and Spanish resources.

The goal is to transmit knowledge, after all. This is what bilingual families do right from the moment the child’s born. The father and mother each choose a language that they’ll talk in and the child will grow up in a bilingual environment.

How much do Spanish tutorials for children cost? A language is one of the best gifts you can give your children. (Source: pixabay.com)

If nobody in your house can speak Spanish, then it might be worthwhile looking at all the free Spanish lessons available online and also looking for Spanish classes (or immersion daycare centers) for babies.

We’ve all got that friend who has a foreign parent and can speak two languages. For some of them, their parents decided to introduce them to both languages from a very young age.

The fruits of their labor was that, from the age of 4, according to the experts, the child was able to distinguish the two languages from one another.

How?

This is because that’s the age when they start socializing, going to school, hanging out with friends who speak English. English will then become their main language and Spanish will therefore become their second mother tongue.

Spanish as a Mother Tongue Before Age 7

We have to outline two main stages. The first one’s birth. The parents, if they want to, can start speaking Spanish to their baby from the second they’re born. This will help tune their ear and develop a linguistic environment. Then, at 4 years old, the child will start being able to differentiate the 2 languages and won’t mix them up.

The final stage is when they reach 7 years old and have established Spanish as a mother tongue. Researchers and linguists have established that around age 7 is when a brain reaches its maturity threshold. While it’s not to late after this stage, the learning process will be slower than if they’d learned at a younger age.

The child will no longer be able to learn Spanish as they would English. To explain this idea, we’re going to take a look at the “critical period hypothesis”.

So what do you think? Our advice would be this: don’t wait until your child has learned English before you start teaching them Spanish. If you want your child to be fully bilingual, you need to put in the effort from the moment they’re born.

Learning a Foreign Language from Age 3

You already have some food for thought concerning your child’s bilingualism. Here’s some more…

There are a number of different schools and centers around the country where foreign languages are taught. Admittedly, they’re only found in the country’s biggest cities. While they traditionally focused on children in school, college students, and adult learners, they’ve started moving towards teaching the very youngest children another language.

How can you teach children Spanish? There are a number of immersion daycare centers that offer classes and activities for children. (Source: pixabay.com)

This means there are daycare centers where children as young as 3 can start learning Spanish. The approach is different to typical language classes as the children are very young. They tend to learn through games and media resources rather than the language education you were used to in school.

Your child will learn their first Spanish words at a very young age. This is great for parents who feel that their own Spanish isn’t good enough to speak to their child in their earliest years. This does mean that your child will start learning Spanish towards the important age of 4 when they start distinguishing the languages.

What are the best ways to learn Spanish? Learning Spanish as young as possible. Taking New York City as an example, there are plenty of immersion and bilingual daycare centers. Monolingual parents can still give their child a second language. Their child will also have fun learning a language, something that they probably won’t have when they start doing language classes in middle or high school.

As a matter of fact, language learning (or any learning for that matter) is much more effective when we’re having fun. Something that often falls by the wayside in our classes at school.

This is why immersion daycare centers might be the best way to make your child fall in love with language learning.

What does the “Critical Period Hypothesis” Say?

In another article, we asked the question: “Am I too old to learn how to speak Spanish?” By answering this question, we can answer the question on the ideal age for learning Spanish, too. The answer to this question tells us at which point learning Spanish or any other foreign language will become increasingly difficult for us.

Earlier we spoke about reaching age 7. If you’ve read our other article, you’ll know that this age comes from the “critical period hypothesis”. This idea came about during the 1960s and states that there’s a certain period in our development (a window, in other words) where learning a language will be much simpler.

The biolinguist Eric Lenneberg worked on this question and the critical period hypothesis showed that the perfect time for learning a 2nd mother tongue is between 2 years old and the start of puberty. If you’re interested in this sort of thing, we recommend you check out his work even though the theory still remains somewhat disputed.

A Huge Advantage in the Long Term

As you saw earlier, there are plenty of good reasons for learning Spanish as early as possible. You have to make the decision on whether you’d like to teach them yourself or enlist the help of an expert.

If your Spanish isn’t great, you may want to start by saying a few Spanish phrases to your baby. You might even want to learn Spanish online for yourself before you start or study Spanish with the help of your own tutor.

What are the advantages of learning Spanish when young? Your child will thank you for teaching them Spanish. (Source: stock.tookapic.com)

In the end, whatever method you choose, you shouldn’t wait around. Learning a second language is a huge advantage in the modern age. In a few years, speaking at least two language may be considered the norm. You wouldn’t want your child to be left behind, would you?

By deciding to teach your child Spanish as soon as possible, you’re giving them a huge advantage in their future life by giving them a second native language as well as the option to speak a third language once they’re older. Almost everyone else around the world is learning English in addition to their own language.

The US is lagging behind in terms of workers with foreign language skills, too. There are very few candidates who have even managed to master conversational Spanish despite how prevalent it is. It’s also very likely in the future that there will also be a larger number of bilingual Spanish-English speakers in the USA both in everyday life as well as in the world of business.

Today’s children would therefore do very well to have three languages under their belts by the time they go off to college! If they learn Spanish as soon as they can, they’ll acquire the language as a mother tongue rather than a foreign language. They’ll be able to dream about their own futures in Spanish!

Finally, during school, they’ll be almost exclusively learning in English. You might help them develop a love of languages and move onto their 4th language in college. While we’re maybe getting ahead of ourselves, the boost you give them today could make them fluent in 4 languages by the time they’re looking for their first job!

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