The Spanish language is one of the most widely spoken languages in the world. In fact, there are 440 million native Spanish speakers in countries in Europe, Africa, and the Americas.
The importance of learning Spanish is therefore widely known, and it is for these reasons that it stands at the forefront of language learning in schools around the world.
But why wait until your child reaches school for them to start a Spanish program? Teaching Spanish to kids from a younger age will put them ahead of the rest by the time they reach school, and as a younger learner, they could benefit from being able to learn a language a lot quicker due to their age and the way that their brain acts as a sponge absorbing information a lot quicker than older students.
But when is the best time to start teaching them Spanish? What do the experts say? Should you start digging out your grammar books from school?
Lots of parents ask about when the best time for teaching a language is.
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 regarding whether there is an age limit to learn Spanish. Put very simply, there’s no minimum age for learning 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 at 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. Any beginners guide to learning Spanish will start in the same way, the only difference is that a very young child will do a lot less reproduction of the language. The process of familiarising yourself with Spanish is the same though.
This is how they’ll be able to eventually become fluent in Spanish. If both parents are bilingual in English and Spanish, then one should focus on speaking to the child in English, and the other in Spanish.
This will allow you to work together to teach them both languages simultaneously. 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.
If you aren’t a Spanish speaker, then it is possible to find a Spanish teacher who can do some basic Spanish to your child, such as introducing some useful verbs and teaching them how to count, just as any other beginner would start learning Spanish.
If there isn’t a Spanish speaker at home, it’s important that you follow the example set by bilingual families. A child 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, aside from the aforementioned hiring a tutor method.
The goal is to transmit knowledge, after all. This is what bilingual families do right from the moment the child is born. The father and mother each choose a language that they’ll talk in and the child will grow up in a bilingual environment.
A language is one of the best skills you can help your children to learn. (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 centres) for children.
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.
This is because that’s the age when they start socialising, 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.
There is no concrete answer to how long learning Spanish takes, but if your child starts learning from a younger age, and has constant exposure to the language, they will learn at a faster pace.
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 to the language and its pronunciation, and help to develop a Spanish speaking 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” a little bit later on.
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. Not only will they hopefully become successfully bilingual, but there are also lots of benefits of learning a language early.
You already have some food for thought concerning your child’s bilingualism. Here’s some more…
There are a number of different schools and centres in different countries where foreign languages are taught. Admittedly, they’re normally only found in the biggest cities. While they have traditionally focused on children in school, university students, and adult learners, they’ve started moving towards teaching the very youngest children another language.
There are a number of immersion daycare centres that offer classes and activities for children. (Source: pixabay.com)
This means there are daycare centres for children as young as 3, which can show them how to go about 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 also means that your child will start learning Spanish around the important age of 4 when they start distinguishing the languages.
This is why immersion daycare centres might be the best way to make your child fall in love with language learning, whilst keeping it fun and educational at the same time.
Earlier we spoke about reaching age 7. 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 is 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.
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. Either way you will need a plan for learning Spanish, as without one, it can be a difficult and lonely task.
If your Spanish isn’t great, you may want to start by saying a few Spanish phrases to your child. You might even want to learn Spanish online yourself before you start, or study Spanish with the help of your own tutor.
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?
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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 fluency 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.
Foreign language skills have always been a generic problem for native English speakers. There aren’t enough candidates who have even managed to master conversational Spanish despite how prevalent it is.
Today’s children would, therefore, do very well to have three languages under their belts by the time they go to university! 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 even be able to have dreams in Spanish, too!
Finally, during school, they’ll be almost exclusively learning in English. You might help them develop a love of languages which could see them study languages later on in life, which could in turn shape the course of their career!