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Thread: Learning languages

  1. #1 Learning languages 
    Forum Sophomore Hymenophyllum's Avatar
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    can we teach our kids speak foreign languages by talking to them in different languages when they are infants?


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    Only if we're competent ourselves. Immersion is the best way to learn when you're young.

    For anyone with enough money to do so, I'd say the best option for people who are not fluent in other languages themselves would be to hire a live-in nanny or other household member on the basis that they should speak their own language with the children. You could offer the nanny/ house help/ child carer/ tutor English as a 2nd language lessons as part of the deal.

    A lot of people dislike such arrangements, but they're perfectly OK when the pay, hours and conditions are reasonable.


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    Forum Bachelors Degree One beer's Avatar
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    I've read that the language learning centres of the brain start to wind down around the age of 12. So learning new languages is easier before age 12, but much harder beyond that age?
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    So learning new languages is easier before age 12, but much harder beyond that age?
    For most people, that's true. Because language and diction in all languages requires habitual muscle movements - of which we're entirely unaware.

    It's also about hearing and listening. The longer you've spent hearing one language only, the longer you've spent learning to ignore all kinds of sounds that don't belong in that language.

    Unlearning or ignoring certain habits of your native language is necessary to learn another unless you're one of those gifted learn-a-language-a-month people. The less you're cemented into that native language, the easier it is to do that. So having second language programs in primary schools is a good idea. Even if the students never gain fluency in the language/s they learn there, they've got the basic skills for speaking/listening/learning another language.
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    "Courage is what it takes to stand up and speak; courage is also what it takes to sit down and listen." Winston Churchill
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    Yes, I agree. We were taught French in junior school, (pre 12), and Italian in secondary school (post 12). I am not fluent in either but I can get around quite easily speaking (simple) French, but I find Italian harder.


    I have worked in France and Italy, and as you say, immersion in the language is what really makes your brain work and kick into higher gear.
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    Quote Originally Posted by adelady View Post
    Only if we're competent ourselves. Immersion is the best way to learn when you're young.

    For anyone with enough money to do so, I'd say the best option for people who are not fluent in other languages themselves would be to hire a live-in nanny or other household member on the basis that they should speak their own language with the children. You could offer the nanny/ house help/ child carer/ tutor English as a 2nd language lessons as part of the deal.

    A lot of people dislike such arrangements, but they're perfectly OK when the pay, hours and conditions are reasonable.
    This nearly happened to me. When I was 2-3 years old, we lived in Puerto Rico. Labor was cheap, so my parents hired a Puerto Rican maid. She wasn't live in but was full time, I was around her a lot. I started speaking Spanish with her, and my parents freaked. They didn't want their child growing up speaking Spanish so they fired the maid.

    An odd view in how attitudes change. I'd be delighted to have a child of mine grow up bilingual. I don't think of my parents as in any way racist, but I never really understood their thinking.
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    Brassica oleracea Strange's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Hymenophyllum View Post
    can we teach our kids speak foreign languages by talking to them in different languages when they are infants?
    Basically, yes. There needs to be a minimum amount of exposure to the second language (by competent speakers). It is also necessary to get the child to talk the second language (when they are old enough). It also helps if there is a clear distinction between when each language is used. For example, one approach is One Person One Language where one parent speaks one language and the other speaks the other. Or, one language in the home and the other outside.

    There appear to be all sorts of cognitive/educational advantages to being bilingual so it is worth doing.

    There was a good article about this in the latest Babel Magazine.
    Babel - The Language Magazine
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    Goddess of Eternity rmbettencourt's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by adelady View Post
    Only if we're competent ourselves. Immersion is the best way to learn when you're young.

    For anyone with enough money to do so, I'd say the best option for people who are not fluent in other languages themselves would be to hire a live-in nanny or other household member on the basis that they should speak their own language with the children. You could offer the nanny/ house help/ child carer/ tutor English as a 2nd language lessons as part of the deal.

    A lot of people dislike such arrangements, but they're perfectly OK when the pay, hours and conditions are reasonable.
    This is actually a great idea. Another idea is to send your child to an international boarding school, where they can make friends from other countries and learn or progress speaking another language. I definitely agree that learning a new language or progressing into one you were learning is harder after the age 12. That is about the time I commenced learning english more and it has been a learning experience to date.
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