We receive lots of questions from parents who are curious about what the best age for children to learn languages is and are worried that 3 years old is too young. But scientific research and studies agree that the younger a child starts learning, the more instinctive and therefore easier it is for them to learn languages.
Everyone has heard the saying that “children’s brains are like sponges” and it’s a well-known fact that the younger you are, the easier it is to learn something. Children are able to learn much quicker than adults or teenagers and this is especially true with learning languages.
For example, this study by Harvard into the development of children's mental skills, agrees that the younger a child starts learning a new language, the better. The study found that children aged between 0-3 mainly learn through hearing sounds and ‘during this stage of development, children are rapidly expanding their language skills… [and so] bilingualism is associated with better [mental skills]’.
For children aged between 3-6, their learning process becomes more complex, as it starts to involve their senses; what they see and what they touch for example. So through the use of objects and play, children within this age group can start to reproduce key words from the language that they are learning. This is why our online Spanish lessons are so great! We use age-specialised activities for this age group’s learning style such as storytelling and singing to really optimise their learning. Check out the video below from one of our lessons, to see how much children this age love interactive learning!
By introducing languages to children from as young an age as possible you will be able to create continuous progress with your child’s range of vocabulary and speaking skills.
Laura is a school teacher and runs our online Spanish lessons and has vast amounts of teaching experience. Having witnessed children's learning abilities, she says that a child's easy learning process occurs because “if children learn a language at the first stages of learning, they will easily learn it because their brain is absorbing all the information it receives”.
When children aged between 2.5-3 attend our online or face-to-face classes, we see them learn very intuitively. This is because they learn the same way that they grasp their first language - through listening and interacting. As a result, our students pick up Spanish in the same way they learn their native language at home. This immersive way of learning is seamless, as it allows children to learn without realising that they are learning!
Gemma (@minibilingualsclasses) who is a French, Spanish, English and Italian speaker with 10 years of teaching experience, agrees with this and says :
"the earlier the better. My online classes start from 6 months, yet babies younger than that start hearing the sounds, seeing the actions and then start joining in later.
It’s wonderful for their memory skill. My 3 years old has been learning French, Spanish and English from weeks old through songs and it has definitely helped her with speech and language skills, as well as her confidence.”
Whilst children younger than 2.5 - 3 find it hard to engage in lessons due to their short attention span, if they live in a bilingual household then this is great news. María Rodriquez - owner of My Bilingual Child Corner, says that:
“...according to my personal experience raising a bilingual boy and helping other families professionally, I consider that acquiring two languages from birth have the following benefits for children aged between 0 - 3:
1) Children develop their concentration and attention. This development is mainly fostered by establishing a daily bilingual routine at home from the very beginning. For this, you can read books and play songs. Do not forget to make use of your body language at all times.
2) Being exposed to the language on a daily routine will make little ones acquire words every single day. They will take some time for them to assimilate. However, the best of all is that they will get you surprised when you listen to the production of those words some day when you least expect it.
3) Children can adapt easily to different situations. They will be used to switching between the two languages depending on the context. They may be speaking with daddy in Spanish and immediately change to English if they need to speak with mummy.”
From this then, we can see a multitude of benefits to starting your child’s language journey from as early as possible. You can read more about such benefits and how you can incorporate languages at home here.
Other studies, such as this one, find that children aged up to 10 have the ability to become fluent in other additional languages. But after this age, there is a decline in children’s language learning abilities. This is because environmental factors such as desires to socialise start kicking in. Resultantly, their available time and motivation to learn is reduced. Therefore, language learning transforms into studying a second additional language as opposed to learning a supplemental language.
Therefore, it’s still recommended to start your child’s language journey before the cut-off age of 10 years old. This is because it's before the age of 10 that a child’s mental capacity to start learning and engaging with another language is at its maximum potential.
From this then, it's easy to see the importance of starting your child learning another language from as young as possible to give them the best chance of learning the language fluently.
But alongside these facts, one of the best ways to boost a young child’s learning, is through having lots of fun - which we have plenty of during our online and face to face lessons. Above all, if a child is enjoying themselves whilst learning, then that's the most important thing!
Furthermore, this doesn’t mean that if you’re an adult, that you cannot learn a new language. In fact, we implore everyone to learn a new language if they can. As a result, we have started new adult Spanish classes, which you can check out here! Whilst it may be better to learn at a younger age, it doesn’t mean that you can’t learn as an adult!