5 Common Myths to Teaching Kids a Foreign Language at Home

 

Having bilingual kids has its fair share of perks (like making them order fancy-sounding food in international restaurants) and it often inspires the question "what is your background?“.

People find it hard to believe that my kids can speak French so well when we are an Australian born and bred family! That is just one of the misconceptions I have come across over the years and here are a few more multilingualism mythbusters.

 

  • Bilingual Kids Must Be Brainiacs

Language lessons for kids are often perceived as an activity for child geniuses. This is simply not true. Human biology built the brain to absorb certain skills like a sponge during those early childhood development years, so your kids are essentially hardwired to learn a foreign language at this age. Think of it as crawling, walking and talking– hence the only people who may struggle more than others are adults!

  • Learning Two Languages Confuses Kids

I remember growing up with multicultural friends who spoke a different language at home and would sometimes mix languages during playtime. This is very common and  it is called code-switching – a perfectly normal phenomenon that just expands their overall vocabulary down the track. Children who are learning a foreign language aren’t becoming confused, they are boosting brain function. Stick with the language lessons and watch them blossom. 

  • Language Learning is for Later in Life

This is wrong on so many levels. The science itself backs up the benefits of teaching children new languages while they are in early childhood but just think of your own experiences. How many people do you know who struggle to learn a couple of useful phrases on their travels, while their kids spend a week playing with the locals and come home practically bilingual? I can’t emphasise enough how important it is to seize the opportunity of that learning window. If you’re worried about your children learning English first, don’t be. Their grasp of the language can only be enriched with the introduction of foreign languages.

  • There’s No Point if Parents aren’t Fluent

I was also guilty of this misconception. Then I discovered that you can teach your child a foreign language at home even if you do not speak the language. How? It’s all about creating an environment that exposes them to the language and offering engaging activities and material that guide them to learn at their own pace. We are there to facilitate, not play the expert. My recommendation – join in and learn some lingo yourself by staying a step ahead of your kids and their program.

  • Learning Multiple Languages Slows Down Speech

Many factors impact speech development in kids, but foreign language learning is not one of them. Every child develops on their timeline and eventually, most children reach a similar level around the time they begin school. If your child is taking a while to verbalise their messages, it will do so regardless of whether or not they are learning another language. Giving them the opportunity to learn another language will advance their communication skills once they find their voice.

If you take away only one point from this list let it be this: scientists, childhood development experts, doctors and linguists agree – the best time for an individual to learn languages is during early childhood.

Don’t miss the opportunity to give your child a head start in life and the keys to a whole world of possibilities.

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