Perhaps you are feeling anxious that you may have missed the “window of opportunity” for your child to learn your language. It’s a very common concern among parents!
The short answer to this question is:
No, it’s never too late to introduce your language to your child.
Even if you have waited until they are teenagers, it is never too late! Learning a second language at any age can provide a number of benefits, from helping with brain development to increasing cultural awareness and understanding. Plus, learning their mother’s or father’s native tongue can be a very special experience for your child that brings them closer to your culture and upbringing. And don’t forget how you became bilingual; perhaps you took language classes as an adult, much later in life, and now you are fluent too!
Studies have shown the benefits of starting as early as possible. The critical period hypothesis of language learning emphasises that until the start of puberty, children are more likely to acquire language skills that are similar to those of native speakers. But yet, many studies have also underlined that one can reach native-like proficiency even if one starts later in life.
At different points in our lives, we learn at a different pace and with more or less effort. Babies have an incredible ear for sounds, and toddlers pick up native accents incredibly quickly. Adults have a longer attention span and better literacy skills, and with the help of explicit learning (learning about the rules and grammar), they can eventually become almost as good as a native speaker.
Second language learning is also influenced by your circumstances. Have you just moved with your whole family to your native country? Is the language spoken all around you by everyone in your family and on TV and radio? That will make learning your language easier for your child.
And what is your home environment like? Will your child have a lot of access to books, movies, and magazines in your native language?
Yes, it may take more time and dedication for an older learner to master a new language than it would for a younger learner. Of course, one reason for this is that older language learners often have other commitments that make it harder for them to dedicate enough time and energy to learning. But with perseverance and consistency, anyone can succeed!
How can I boost my child’s second language learning?
There are many different ways to help your child learn a second language. First and foremost, you should be speaking the language yourself in the home as much as possible. You can also find online tutorials, audio books, and other resources to teach them new words. For example, Duolingo Kids is a fantastic app for learning vocabulary!
Additionally, you can enrol your child in a language class or hire a tutor if needed. I find that being together with other language learners, sharing a language learning experience, or even just having a positive relationship with one’s tutor can make the second language learning process much more fun and engaging.
Finally, it’s important to encourage meaningful conversations with friends and family members who speak the language fluently. Once your child has some basic language skills in your language, they can have fun conversing with the people around them.
So don’t hesitate—take this opportunity to get started on teaching your child a new language today! There are lots of resources available online, from books (check out our book section) and apps to videos and games.
It’s never too late to introduce a language to your child, and it can provide them with some amazing benefits along the way. Being bilingual, whether early in life or later, means more culture, more people to communicate with, and more opportunities. Don’t hesitate to introduce a new world to your child!