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How children learn a second language

In the past we were lead to believe that it was almost impossible to learn a second language simultaneously with a first. In fact, many teachers actively discouraged it. We now know however that it is possible, and those that don't start to learn the second language as a child are actually going to suffer. Sure, they will be able to learn it eventually, but it will take a lot longer. In this article I want to run you through a couple of methods that children use to learn languages. Let's jump in shall we?


One of the most common methods of learn a second language is simultaneously with the first language. Often this occurs when a child is exposed to one language at home, and the second language at school or similar. It could also occur if both parents talk to their child in different languages.


One of the key things to know about this method of language learning is that before a child can talk, the absorb both languages just as quickly as each other. However it is worth nothing that the child knows how to separate these languages up, and they are able to tell the difference between the two. This happens before a child is even six months old. Once a child is six months old, they are able to tell the differences  between both languages, when they talk they tend to favour the language which they favour the most. Therefore in simultaneous language learning, it is important that the child is exposed to both languages in equal measures.


The second method that children learn a language is known as 'sequential second language learning'. As you can probably guess, this involves learning a second language after the child is familiar with one language already. This can happen at any stage during the child's development. There are a number of stages to this language learning, I won't go into depth on all of them, but basically the child will learn the language over time, this includes talking in their native language, realizing that this doesn't work and then learning how to adapt to other people. Basically, they are being 'forced' to learn the language. It does take a while to happen, but it does work.


Remember, it is important that a child learns a second language as early on in their life as possible. It is far easier for them! Of course, it is also your responsibility to ensure they learn both languages in equal measures, that way they stay on top of their skills. Don't worry, it will come naturally to the child and shouldn't be too difficult. Just make sure they are exposed to both languages in equal measures and you should be fine! Remember, you as a parent is going to play a very crucial role in the development of a child, so put in as much effort as possible when you teach them, and if possible, talk to your child's teacher to see how you can help.


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