Teaching a second language to kids

Many parents raise their children in families that speak one language, wishing they could give them the edge of a second language. Ironically, many parents are also afraid of doing so. They believe adding a second language into the everyday life of a child might impose a burden or may even hinder the child’s mother tongue development.
Are these concerns substantiated?
-Is it really harmful to introduce a second language into the life of a small toddler that can barely speak their mother tongue?
-And does learning always comprise an academic activity?
Even though both of these opinions prevail in the Czech Republic, they are quite outdated. Many recent neurolinguistic and psycholinguistic studies reveal a child’s brain is able to absorb more than one language from early on without getting overwhelmed. Moreover, if learning is based on a playful activity that your child likes and that respects the child’s need, then we are talking about a natural learning process far different from any school activities.

There are many reasons why early exposure is beneficial:
Double fun
The first couple years are crucial: you spend maximum time with your child and play the same things over and over again. Why not make it a little varied by adding a second language naturally? Learn nursery rhymes, read books, do crafts or watch cartoons both in your native tongue and in the second language.
Making the most of it
Attentive parents are the most import thing for a small child. You can play in any language with your child as long as you are there and taking an active part in the play. Adding a second language into your everyday life later when your child is enrolled in kindergarten or school might be very difficult, unnatural or even impossible. The earlier the better!
Language made to measure
Playing at home in the second language is naturally tailored to your child’s needs and preferences. Unlike lessons at school where the lessons do not take into account whether your son loves dinosaurs and your daughter adores nothing but horses. At home, fun can be your guide.
Language as play
If you introduce the second language in a playful way from early on, your child will soak it in naturally. It won’t take any extra effort and it won’t be an extra activity. If you stick to certain rules, a second language can become a part of your everyday life, side by side with your mother tongue.
More than just a language
Many studies prove that children exposed to more than one language from early on are more creative and reach better academic results than their monolingual peers.

Give it a try, and keep watching here for tips and suggestions on how to get the most out of doubling-up languages and play time!

Petra Vojtová is passionate about languages and passionately promotes ‘natural home playing’ for learning a second language. After her graduation in translation studies at the Charles University, Prague, Petra has been working as a translator and teacher. When her first daughter was born four years ago, she began educating herself in children’s language development. Since then, she has been sharing her knowledge with other parents through her DoubleBubble project.