Children have the most potential learning languages. They remember everything they are told to and they repeat what they hear, even without fully understand what it means. Some experts say children who start learning a language before the age of 5 are more likely to have native or near-native pronunciation of that language. Others say this age can extend up to preadolescence. Based on this theory, some people believe the earlier a child is introduced to a new language, the better it is.
Some other parents, on the other hand, wonder if it is going to bring confusion if a completely new language is added on top of the one the child is already learning.
One Person, One Language
From my own experience, when a child starts to learn a language, it is important to associate the language with the person who speaks it with him/her. For example, if Dad speaks English and Mom speaks Mandarin Chinese with the child all the time , the child learns the difference automatically and he can make the switch easily. If the parents do not speak Chinese but want to introduce Mandarin to the child, then having a Chinese-speaking babysitter can help to a great extent. Ask the babysitter to speak only Chinese with the child and the child will make the connection by himself: he will speak English with the parents in whatever languages the parents speak and Chinese with the babysitter.
Introduce An Additional Language Later
If a natural language environment can not be enforced, I would say it is better to wait a bit till the child masters basic vocabulary in his mother tongue language. When the child can express himself/herself in his own mother tongue, introducing a new language, if managed well, will only bring fun instead of confusion, just like introducing a new game activity.
What we need to know about is that he first stage of a 2nd language acquisition is pre-production, also known as the silent period. Learners at this stage keep on accumulating vocabulary, up to 500 words while do not speak the language yet. Not every learner goes through this stage; but if your child does go through the stage, don’t worry if he does not speak straightaway. Normally this stage can last for 3-6 months, sometimes even longer.
Nursery Rhymes | Children’s Songs
If we want to see the quick results, teaching a child some nursery rhymes or children’s songs can bring some satisfaction — because children will learn to sing along quite quickly.