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Teaching second language to young children


I just had my first child last year and I am trying to give him the best head start in life. I want to teach him a few languages early in a way my mother, who raised my brother and I alone, was not able to. We speak some Spanish at home because we are Puerto Rican but not nearly enough. He's 9 months and we've been trying at baby sign language, just using it at every opportunity.

In other countries like Europe children know 2 language by age 9. I don't want to compare my son to other children because every child is unique but I want to give him those opportunities if I can. I know by even just learning 1 or 2 other languages other than English he will have a leg up. But myself I only speak English and a basic amount of Spanish. I'm interested in learning French and Chinese.

What are some best practices or programs you have used or heard of for introducing and practicing languages even when your not fluent in them.


I think one of the main reasons why in Europe (I'm from the Netherlands) people may speak more languages is because in most countries television is not subbed, but in the original language (often English) with subtitles. Children's tv does not count of course.

But what you could do is have simple books, since you know how to pronounce the words correctly and tv programs in Spanish.


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Hello! I think this truly is one of the best head starts you can give a child. Although it isn't something that should be force-fed. I think the best option if you want to teach them a language you are not fluent in is to learn it together.

I personally have been learning Chinese and Japanese for a few years. These languages that are so different from Western languages would be the most beneficial to learn at an early age. I am still relatively young (I just turned 23), but let me tell you much I wish I had starting learning foreign languages earlier. Since you mentioned you are interested in Chinese, I can't stress enough how important it would be to have a native Chinese speaker help you and your child learn together. Unfortunately, it is not a language you can learn on your own.

I wish you and your son the best of luck on your language journey!


I will be teaching my son French and Chinese when he gets a little older. Right now he is a year old and is learning English and Spanish together since his fathers first language is Spanish and my first language is English. I plan on using flash cards and simple stories and having him watch cartoons or movies in the language he is trying to learn.
Your baby can learn as many languages as exposure permits. If one of you only speaks in Spanish and the other in English... each tv and question and play in the respective languages, the baby will flip and have no issues. An ESL professor of mine spoke English while her husband also spoke fluent German. Their girls referred to it as mommy’s language and daddy’s language and are beautifully fluent with no issues.


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I commend you for wanting to undertake such a task! My background is in psychology, so I know that there are many developmental benefits to being exposed to more than one language as a young child. I will say that it can be quite difficult, especially if you yourself are not fluent. I'm fluent in Russian and I find it difficult to speak exclusively in Russian with my young children. My daughter (now 2.5) started off speaking more Russian than English, but after being in daycare for a little bit and just over time she's transitioned mostly to English. Still understands a good bit of Russian but definitely prefers English. My sister's husband speaks Russian, as do the in-laws (who take care of the kids a lot). Her kids are also much more proficient in English and really struggle with forming grammatically correct sentences in Russian. This is not to discourage you at all. Even just exposing your children to words and phrases here in there in different languages will be beneficial, and do not be discouraged if you're not able to get them to a proficient level. If you truly want them to become fluent from a young age though, I would suggest looking at immersion programs for when your son is a little bit older (daycare/preschool age).