How do children learn a second language
Children’s brains are designed for learning and they are natural at learning languages. Find here three simple steps to help them.
When it comes to languages children are like sponges, they are able to learn simply by being in the environment where the language is spoken. Even when living abroad, if both parents speak their mother tongue, at home, the child will speak it as well. So they are natural learners and learning languages have huge benefits for them. But what about those children who are not raised in a mainly bilingual environment at home? Are they doomed? Of course not!
Step No 1. Give children enough exposure to the language
To enable them to learn, children need enough exposure to the language and the right type of exposure. A class is a good way to start. In this setting, the language needs to be presented in context, for example with a story, with a task, with a game, etc… The class must be fun. Let’s be clear here, fun in class is not a desirable element but is essential, without it the children will switch off. Moreover, the language needs to be perceived as useful by the child. The skill of the teacher is to make those tasks/games/etc, irresistible for the children, so that they can’t wait to get stuck in.
Step No 2. Support your child
Although children’s brains are designed to learn and especially to learn languages, we also need to recognise that learning is an effort for the children, especially if they cannot rely on it being spoken continuously at home. So they need to be well supported in their endeavour. Parents needs to be aware that learning a language is a commitment for both the children and themselves.
Step No 3. Be patient
To learn a second language takes time and it takes dedication for children and families. It happens but not overnight, so be patient!
At Parla Italiano, our school of Italian in Palmers Green, we strive to understand the process of learning so all the activities that we design reflect all of the above and more. Please visit our school if you wish to see our teachers in action or write to us to find out more about how we teach.