“How fast do children learn their mother tongue?”

“Why should children be taught English, or any language?”

By the time a child celebrates their first birthday they can understand between 3 and 100 words, and six months later they are learning 5-6 new words per week. When they turn two, they will probably speak about 50 words, and 1000 words just six months later. By the age of three, they can utter sentences of up to six words long, and two years later their language skills have become fixed. In their early years kids can learn any language with the same degree of ease, so a kid in China will learn at the same speed as a kid in Peru.

Parents around the globe are spending unprecedented sums of money on learning English – both for themselves and above all for their children. In a competitive frenzy, for many decades the wealthy, and even not so wealthy, have been sending their children at increasingly earlier ages to private language schools to learn English. Alternatively, they arrange private lessons at home either individually or in small groups.

This desire to learn English is also fuelled by publishers and language schools who, like any other industry, push their product as hard as they can. The consequence is now that not having your child learn English is perceived as almost as grave as not having their teeth checked regularly at the dentist.

Numerous research studies have demonstrated that acquiring a new language has a positive impact on a person’s ability to learn other subjects. When children learn a foreign language, they show better mathematical skills compared to their peers who don’t take language classes, even if it means they have less time for math. Bilingual kids tend to excel in reading, spelling, grammar, word recognition and writing. Teaching young children a second language also improves their cognitive flexibility and creative thinking skills. One study revealed that high school students who learned Latin, French, German or Spanish outperformed their equally academically capable peers who did not take a foreign language in college.

Adrian Wallwork

Categories: Kids