Many people think there is a very small window of opportunity to teach your child a new language, a new skill, a new technique. However, that’s not the case. Though most brain development happens from infancy to the early ages of adolescence, it is entirely possible to learn a new language at any age in life.
If you are thinking of raising a bilingual child, remember that it is never too late to make a start.
The “Window Of Opportunity”- Is It Real?
Many studies have reported that children can be bilingual right from birth. The much rumoured “window of opportunity” is between infancy and the age five. This is because the brain grows and expands rapidly till the child reaches five years of age. So the more their brain is stretched, the more it develops.
Beyond the age of five, the brain grows at a very slow pace. So, does that mean your child is doomed to be monolingual after the age of five?
Teaching Your Child To Be Bilingual
No, it’s definitely not impossible. It might be tougher, but it is very much possible. It all depends on how much your child is exposed to the language.
Consider this. If you have migrated to a new country and your child is admitted to a native language school, then he/she will be able to learn the language in as little as a month! This is because they have no other choice and they are obliged to learn it. So they absorb the language from the atmosphere, that is, by listening and communicating in this new language.
So, what’s the right way to introduce a new language?
As children grow older, there are many ways in which they learn – studying, reading, learning grammatical nuances, etc. A good place to start is to speak the new language at home – parents can be great teachers – and to watch movies, news, documentaries, etc. And remember to add an element of fun.
As time passes on and your child experiences communicative exposure of the second language, you may introduce books. Reading with associated pictures is another great way of reinforcing language learning. No scholar has learnt all the rules of grammar and constructed the sentences in their mind to write awe inspiring books. They write and speak by instinct which is achieved through reading as well as by listening and speaking.
One final step is to start writing. Writing engages your child in using what he/she has learnt and it’s the final stage to complete bilingualism. So if you are hesitating, put your doubts to one side and get started!
Mrs Naz Shamsi
Writer, Traveller and mother – and married to a French man
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