Learning Foreign Languages
To learn how and why to raise your chidlren bilingually
click on the PPT presentation below.
Dear Dr. Teresa,
I know that speaking a foreign language has wonderful benefits, but I don't know when the best time to start a second language with my daughter would be. I know they say, "the earlier the better", but she is almost two and I am afraid of confusing her.
Georgia L., NY, NY
You are correct, the advantages to speaking multiple languages is incredible. Research shows that, aside from the very familiar social advantages, being multilingual also has cognitive advantages.
Your daughter will not get confused. We are wired to learn multiple languages. I have worked with bilingual language-impaired children for nearly 20 years and even they have the capacity to learn a foreign language.
You are also correct that the earlier you start a second language, the better. Children are born with an ability to discern meaningful sounds in all languages. As they hear the language of their environment, they attune their ears (so to speak) to the sounds in that language and lose the ability to hear differences in languages to which they are not exposed. This is partly why adults often speak a foreign language with an accent. While some accents are appealing, a heavy accent can interfere with effective communication.
I would recommend starting as soon as you can.