LittleFokker
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Teaching children a second language

Sat Sep 09, 2017 4:04 am

My son is almost 2 1/2 years old, and so far his grasp of the English language is up to my expectations. He knows the context of critical words and phrases, can repeat back what you say to him very well, and occasionally can form entire sentences.

While on vacation last week, during car rides we played around with teaching him to count to 20 in Spanish. He seemed to like doing that and picked up on it fairly quickly. Today, the wife suggested finding an age appropriate Spanish class for him, in the hopes that he will eventually become bilingual. Her argument was that it's easier for a child to learn before he fully grasps English because they will on use Spanish and apply that phrase to what he is seeing, making it easier to learn. Plus, at his age, the brain is as spongy as it will ever be, soaking up everything.

I am not in favor of the classes, not because I am against him learning Spanish (it's a very useful skill), but rather the money will go to waste right now. My wife and I are at about the same level of knowledge about the language: not fluent, but have taken a few classes, know critical words and phrases, and we understand the concept of conjugating verbs. But we don't speak it regularly, none of our extended families speak it regularly (I have a cousin who is fluent, but best case, we'd see him once every 2-3 years). School isn't going to teach him or use it until at least Junior high, and overall, he won't be interacting much with Spanish speakers, so I think whatever this class teaches him will be forgotten.

A.net community, what are your thoughts on teaching a second language to a small child?
"All human activities are doomed to failure." - Jean Paul Sartre
 
Airstud
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Re: Teaching children a second language

Sat Sep 09, 2017 5:08 am

As you say, he won't be interacting much with hispanohablantes so there won't be any chance to develop the skill meaningfully.

Why not take more classes with LittleFokkeress and commit to speaking español more at home; that way everybody gets to learn.

Maybe ask other famblies in your neighborhood about similar plans they might have for their little ones?

Maybe visit some barrio playgrounds and see if he makes any new friends there?
Pancakes are delicious.
 
AeroVega
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Re: Teaching children a second language

Sat Sep 09, 2017 5:51 am

My son is not a native English speaker but seems to have picked up quite a bit from YouTube.

Are there any daycare facilities or kindergartens where they speak Spanish in your neighborhood?.
 
helhem
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Re: Teaching children a second language

Sat Sep 09, 2017 5:58 am

I give my opinion. I am no expert but these come from my experiences and observations.

Teaching languages like this to small children is very doable. There are specific schools with programs as well for that. Unless your child does not use spanish very much and is not surrounded by that language he will likely never be fully bilingual. If it is just a school thing the end result will be limited. Great tennis players or footballers did not get great from school sports classes. I mean he will likely struggle against native speakers of spanish. But that is a very high standard, It depends on the motivation of your son and the friends he may have and so on. Much less is very good as well. It might be beneficial for him in the workforce at some point. People are using languages they learned as adults for very complicated things. Some people even claim they have reached native proficiency in languages they started learning as adults.

Does your child have an obvious native language? Both you and your wife have english as their first language and use that to communicate with each other. You live in an english speaking environment? Then having a good level of english is the first priority for your child. Any spanish lessons or exposure to something else is very unlikely to have any harmful effect. Look at immigrant children or children of immigrants, plenty of those speak the language but there are also less successful examples. Think about why it is so. It may be possible your child has some language disabilities or is struggling very much with english later on in his school career. It is not always that obvious until much later. Then I would concentrate on english only. It gets more difficult if both parents do not share the same primary language but for example communicate in mediocre english . And they might live somewhere where yet another language is spoken. Or both parents are bilingual trilingual or the like. There is a limit somewhere in teaching languages to kids. If the environment is not supportive of one language it can make people drop speaking in their native language to their kids. Divorces are a very common cause for this as well.
 
Kiwirob
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Re: Teaching children a second language

Sat Sep 09, 2017 6:59 am

My kids are bilingual, we speak English at home and they got all there Norwegian from kindergarten and school.
 
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Thunderboltdrgn
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Re: Teaching children a second language

Sat Sep 09, 2017 7:36 am

I think the general consensus is that it is easier to learn new languages as a child then it is as an adult.
I think it has to do with that children in general are more receptive to learning then someone that is 50-60 years old,
that they are are biologically programmed to learning mode.
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Aesma
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Re: Teaching children a second language

Sat Sep 09, 2017 7:55 am

You've got like 500 Spanish TV channels so you could always show him some children programs in the language, or better watch it with him, maybe even with subtitles.
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BestWestern
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Re: Teaching children a second language

Sat Sep 09, 2017 8:10 am

My kids are in Cantonese school specifically to absorb the language.
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lugie
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Re: Teaching children a second language

Sat Sep 09, 2017 10:18 am

I didn't have the luck to grow up bilingual, which I consider regrettable because I love learning new languages.

If there is a chance to give a kid such an opportunity, I'd try taking it. Any day.
A family we know from here in Germany moved to the US about 3 years ago for work reasons. Their child was around 3 at the time they left, so he had started getting a good grasp on German, giving adequate responses and being able to express his needs properly. Nowadays, after 3 years of kindergarten in the US, his parents say he speaks the best English in their family. They mainly use German at home but the rest of the day and whenever he's with friends he'll be speaking English, so I guess having started to learn the language at such an early point in life brings him quite close to native speaker level.
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Dutchy
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Re: Teaching children a second language

Sat Sep 09, 2017 11:53 am

yes, bilingual seems to be good for the development of children. I think the people learning it to him, should be native speakers and it should be natural, why give a 2,5y/o lessons in anything, a lot for him to discover in his natural surroundings. ;-)
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einsteinboricua
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Re: Teaching children a second language

Sat Sep 09, 2017 4:14 pm

The problem with learning a new language is that if you don't practice every day, it's meaningless. It's why many Puerto Ricans have a very thick accent when speaking English (and a broken one at that). I learned not because I practiced at home or school, but because my mom ensured that all programming we watched was in English (and even then I never liked Spanish dubbed programming...same voices, same gestures, and many jokes lose their punchline in translation). As a result, you couldn't tell that Spanish is my native language. While learning French, I noticed that the reason I haven't truly picked it up properly is the lack of exposure to other French-speakers and programming. I can read and understand it, but can't properly write or speak it yet.

My suggestion is to enroll them in a school that offers Spanish courses or take Spanish lessons together. Heck, befriend other Spanish-speaking parents. Odds are that their children already understand it and if they become friends they can practice with each other (as I did with my cousins when they were enrolled in a military base school). As long as they can speak and understand it, it's enough though the sign of a true bilingual person is when they don't have an accent and can pass off as a native speaker in terms of speech and writing.
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Chaostheory
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Re: Teaching children a second language

Sun Sep 10, 2017 1:55 pm

My wife and I are both from mixed race backgrounds so we both realised the need for our kids to be bi/multi lingual. I have an American Malay (maternal) and Spanish Pakistani (paternal) ethnicity whilst the wife is German Swiss with a little bit of Turk. We're as mixed as they come!

My kids are British-German (or the other way around if you ask the wife) so having them learn english and german hasn't been an issue and they will use both languages, especially when I'm home. The eldest who is nine enjoys his languages and the wife has also taught him a little French and Turkish. In actual fact, I will be enrolling him in an after-school Arabic class in the next few days too.

As others have said, unless your kid(s) is using another language on a regular or constant basis, additional classes at his age would not be meaningful.
 
Kiwirob
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Re: Teaching children a second language

Sun Sep 10, 2017 2:49 pm

Why would you enrol them in an Arabic class when neither of you are arabs and you don't live in an Arab country, wouldn't it be better to immerse them in one of the other languages you speak, French Turkish or Spanish?
 
VSMUT
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Re: Teaching children a second language

Sun Sep 10, 2017 2:57 pm

Kiwirob wrote:
Why would you enrol them in an Arabic class when neither of you are arabs and you don't live in an Arab country, wouldn't it be better to immerse them in one of the other languages you speak, French Turkish or Spanish?


Agree, why Arabic? Just about one of the least useful languages in the world if you don't live in an Arab speaking country. French, Spanish or Chinese would be infinitely more useful.
 
Chaostheory
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Re: Teaching children a second language

Sun Sep 10, 2017 3:47 pm

Kiwirob wrote:
Why would you enrol them in an Arabic class when neither of you are arabs and you don't live in an Arab country, wouldn't it be better to immerse them in one of the other languages you speak, French Turkish or Spanish?


I do spend most of my time in an Arab country, I'm a fluent speaker and having an understanding of classical (fusha) and modern Arabic is important in the religious context. Lastly, it's the language my son enjoys the most. I've taught my eight year old the basics too but he's less than enthusiastic so I doubt we'll take it much further.
 
Kiwirob
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Re: Teaching children a second language

Sun Sep 10, 2017 7:25 pm

Fair enough.
 
B777LRF
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Re: Teaching children a second language

Sun Sep 10, 2017 8:47 pm

The younger you are, the easier it is to learn a language. And, conversely, the older you are, the harder it gets. You are, however, also fortunate being a native English speaker, in that you don't 'have' to learn a 2nd or 3rd language; English will see you safely around the world.

I am fortunate to speak 2 languages fluently, pretty good at a third and can get by in a couple more, all owing to the fact that my native tongue is a right bitch and, crucially, spoken by not a lot of people and understood by even fewer. That makes learning a 2nd and 3rd language not so much optional, but rather crucial.

Without the need to learn a language, kids get bored pretty quickly. For me, learning English meant I could understand what they song about in the radio, and made me less reliant on the subtitles when watching tv or movies. It also meant travelling the world became a whole lot easier and, indeed, without it I wouldn't have been able to forge the career I did.

Once you discover you have a knack for it, and most kids do, and you can couple that with a need or desire, you're onto a winner. Without one or both, however, it's always going to be a struggle. Having parents with ambitions on your behalf does not satisfy the desire bit; kids are extremely good at figuring out 'what's in it for me', and if there's nothing in it, will quickly lose interest.
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DocLightning
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Re: Teaching children a second language

Sun Sep 10, 2017 8:53 pm

Children learn languages by immersion (as do adults, but kids are way better at it). Get him into an immersion school.
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LittleFokker
Topic Author
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Re: Teaching children a second language

Tue Sep 12, 2017 12:54 am

Kiwirob wrote:
My kids are bilingual, we speak English at home and they got all there Norwegian from kindergarten and school.


But you have the built in advantage of being in a fairly bi-langual country. English is just as commonly taught and spoken there as Norwegian is, no? Plus, I'm sure they are taught the subtle differences of Swedish, Finnish, and Danish languages.

DocLightning wrote:
Children learn languages by immersion (as do adults, but kids are way better at it). Get him into an immersion school.


True, but how expensive are those immersion schools? And how long does he need to be in there to make the language permanently stick?

einsteinboricua wrote:
Heck, befriend other Spanish-speaking parents. Odds are that their children already understand it and if they become friends they can practice with each other (as I did with my cousins when they were enrolled in a military base school).


Pretty sound advice here, not sure how easy that is to execute though (the midwest isn't chock full of Spanish speakers in case you haven't heard).

Dutchy wrote:
yes, bilingual seems to be good for the development of children. I think the people learning it to him, should be native speakers and it should be natural, why give a 2,5y/o lessons in anything, a lot for him to discover in his natural surroundings. ;-)


Very realistic. Maybe our knowledge of Spanish, perhaps with a little refresher course on the language, would be the best way to spark his interest in learning.
"All human activities are doomed to failure." - Jean Paul Sartre
 
treetreeseven
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Re: Teaching children a second language

Tue Sep 12, 2017 1:10 am

Thunderboltdrgn wrote:
I think the general consensus is that it is easier to learn new languages as a child then it is as an adult.
I think it has to do with that children in general are more receptive to learning then someone that is 50-60 years old,
that they are are biologically programmed to learning mode.

There is a malleable "plastic period" in terms of language acquisition which ends around puberty. During this period it is much, much easier for the brain to pick up a new language, including a lot of the accent and so forth. After, the brain has "gelled" a bit and we start learning how teens and adults learn new languages, starting with brute force memorization and working up from there. By all means, expose kids to languages!
 
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einsteinboricua
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Re: Teaching children a second language

Tue Sep 12, 2017 1:15 am

LittleFokker wrote:
Pretty sound advice here, not sure how easy that is to execute though (the midwest isn't chock full of Spanish speakers in case you haven't heard).

You'd be surprised. I mean, rural areas are not exactly full of Spanish-speakers, but cities are. I was surprised at the large number of Mexicans in St. Louis, for example.
"You haven't seen a tree until you've seen its shadow from the sky."
 
Kiwirob
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Re: Teaching children a second language

Tue Sep 12, 2017 5:49 am

LittleFokker wrote:
Kiwirob wrote:
My kids are bilingual, we speak English at home and they got all there Norwegian from kindergarten and school.


But you have the built in advantage of being in a fairly bi-langual country. English is just as commonly taught and spoken there as Norwegian is, no? Plus, I'm sure they are taught the subtle differences of Swedish, Finnish, and Danish languages.



The English they learn in school isn't good enough. They aren't taught anything about the differences in the Nordic languages, Finnish is completely different, it's not North Germanic, it's Uralic, related to Estonian and Hungarian.
 
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mad99
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Re: Teaching children a second language

Tue Sep 12, 2017 6:59 am

My kids only speak to me in English and i only use English to talk to the wife so it's mostly English at home and Spanish outside of it.

I'd say unless they use the language they'll never be very good at it but you never know, i worked with a man who never spent any time outside of Spain and had an excellent level of English. Some people are better than others that's for sure.
 
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DocLightning
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Re: Teaching children a second language

Wed Sep 13, 2017 5:20 am

LittleFokker wrote:
True, but how expensive are those immersion schools? And how long does he need to be in there to make the language permanently stick?



Venga, hombre. Si quieres algo, tienes que pagar. Lo siento, pero eso es como es.
(Look, man. If you want something, you have to pay for it. I'm sorry, but that's how it is).
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LittleFokker
Topic Author
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Re: Teaching children a second language

Thu Sep 14, 2017 12:02 am

DocLightning wrote:
LittleFokker wrote:
True, but how expensive are those immersion schools? And how long does he need to be in there to make the language permanently stick?



Venga, hombre. Si quieres algo, tienes que pagar. Lo siento, pero eso es como es.
(Look, man. If you want something, you have to pay for it. I'm sorry, but that's how it is).


Not disagreeing with you, but can you quantify that cost somewhat? How many thousands of dollars are we talking? Just curious how realistic this would be to my budget.
"All human activities are doomed to failure." - Jean Paul Sartre
 
kellyon
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Re: Teaching children a second language

Sat Sep 23, 2017 8:53 am

I think learning a second language is beneficial at all ages. English is my second language, I started learning it only in high school. Remember when I studied abroad I had to use document editing services to avoid any grammar errors in my writings and get higher education. I'm completely agree with the opinion that the younger someone’s mind is, the easier it is to learn a second -or even third- language. I will definitely teach my children a second language from a young age. There are numerous advantages to becoming bilingual.
 
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readytotaxi
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Re: Teaching children a second language

Sat Sep 23, 2017 11:47 am

The more we are able to talk to each other can only be a better outcome for the human race.
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