When should my child start learning the English language?

This is an important question, especially for expecting parents wanting to decide when their little prodigy will need to start mastering English grammar. The last thing you want to do is confuse a child or hinder their progress.

This is also an issue for parents from different countries and who speak different native languages. They might want to both speak their native language to their child and raise them as a native speaker. They might also want to know how they should be teaching their child English.

Good news! Nowadays, there aren’t any substantial arguments against bilingualism. In fact, learning a foreign language has lots of benefits.

Let’s have a look at what’s the minimum age when it comes to learning to speak English.

Are you ready?

Is Bilingualism Dangerous for Very Young Children?

At 3 months, babies have the necessary pathways for learning a new language. This means they can start preparing to learn to speak at this. Studies show that bilingualism isn’t harmful to a young baby’s brain.

In fact, young minds love stimulation.

Maria Kihlstedt, from the Université de Paris Ouest Nanterre, confirmed that there are several neural circuits for learning a language before the age of 7.

There’s therefore no reason not to teach your baby English.

Is Learning English from a Young Age Just for Bilingual Families?

Teaching children English as a foreign language is great in a world where the language is used in a number of fields such as business and tourism, for example. However, make sure they're still learning the language they need to speak every day! To avoid cognitive difficulties, it’s a good idea to find a balance between teaching them English and focusing on gaining proficiency in their mother tongue.

Here are some of the commonly-held linguistic misconceptions: New studies have shown that when you learn a new language, there are no negative effects on any other language acquisition. You can therefore read stories in English to them if you want. Before you know it, you'll be reading them Harry Potter.

Sing songs and nursery rhymes to them in English, too! This will always help them to learn. Since children are always trying to get their parents’ attention, they’ll love the positive feedback they get when they speak English.

By encouraging your child to practice English words and phrases daily, you’re giving them everything they need to learn the language and gain fluency and become an English speaker. You don’t need to be completely bilingual to do activities in English. Every time you do anything in the language you’ll improve and learn!

Are bilingual children more intelligent? Should yours learn a foreign language as soon as possible?

Does mastering two languages mean you’re more intelligent? It’s been shown that mastering two languages gives you a number of advantages when it comes to:

  • Non-verbal problems
  • Communicative awareness
  • Spatial awareness
  • Creativity
  • Mathematical problems

Take a good English speaking course online.

How do you raise a bilingual child?
You don't need to be a bilingual family to have a bilingual child. (Source: The Odyssey Online)

A study by Riccardielli in 1992 on multilingual and monolingual children proved this. The children had to think of a number of uses for a can of cola.

The bilingual group provided way more suggestions and more original suggestions. Don’t worry if your children are monolingual, though. There are plenty of activities they can be doing to improve when it comes to sport, music, and art.

However, teaching English from a young age is obviously a good idea thanks to all the benefits it can bring!

Start Learning English from 3 Years Old

Young children have an incredible memory when it comes to learning languages. Make sure they’re watching English-language cartoons to work on their ear and their vocabulary. Peppa Pig’s always a good idea for very young children as the language involved is very simple and anyone can follow the story.

We wouldn’t recommend screens for any language learner under 2 years old. However, given how popular these devices are nowadays, this might be unavoidable. Parents should try and limit how often their children are looking at screens and favour interactive games over videos when they learn a new language.

There are plenty of digital games, DVDs, and board games for teaching young children new words and English language skills whether it's their first language or they're trying to learn a second language. There are also English workshops for young children in primary school. A group of children can get together to sing, play, read, and speak in English. They’ll not even realise they’re learning because they'll be having far too much fun!

Check for spoken English classes in Tamil here.

What’s The Best Age to Learn English?

Scientists used to believe that it was better for a child to master their mother tongue before moving on to their second language. However, if you learn a language after 7 years of age, it’ll never be your mother tongue... The sooner you learn a language, the better. That doesn't mean a child older than 7 can never learn a foreign language, it just means they won't learn it the same way as they do their native language.

You needn’t work as hard if you learn from a younger age. Motivation is key when it comes to learning English but isn’t enough if the activities aren’t adapted to the student.

Don’t worry, you can always get private English tutorials with a private tutor if you’d like to catch up. A student who struggled in English at school could end up speaking the language later in life thanks to a multitude of other techniques.

Sometimes children struggle with languages because the approach and methods used by their teacher at school doesn't work for them. Unfortunately, the teacher has a class full of students and can't tailor every single class to one particular child. A tutor, on the other hand, can...

English and School: A Complicated Relationship

Many people start learning English in school from a very young age. Nowadays, children learn nursery rhymes and songs in English at nursery and weekly extra lessons. The problem is that most just learn more words and spend their time solely focusing on their vocabulary.

See different spoken English classes in Rajkot here.

How can children learn English at school?
Learning English at school can sometimes be a love-hate relationship. (Source: Get Brit)

When children are at the best age to learn a language, they’re only studying it for an hour or so a week. With so few hours of study, they remain beginners when they should be making tonnes of progress.

However, you needn’t start blaming primary school teachers. They can’t decide upon their own schedule and don’t really have that many hours in a week to play around with the timetable.

Very few students tend to make it to the end of their school careers fluent in English. There aren’t often the resources needed to do so.

Learn where to find the best English resources for teaching English here.

Those who do are normally a special case: they’ve got an American best friend, spend their holidays in English-speaking countries, watch American or British television, or their babysitter’s English, for example.

Could they do a school trip at 7 years old?

Can children learn English by travelling?
Travelling is a great way to learn a language, even for children! (Source: Quote Master)

That’s supposedly when they reach the age of reason. This is when children want to learn things themselves and start going to summer camps. A child who shows any enthusiasm for learning English around this age should be encouraged to participate in English-language summer camps and excursions.

Children see immersion like a game. It’s a new way for them to see the world and meet people who speak English. They have to feel ready, of course. You can’t abandon them at a summer camp!

There’s No Minimum Age when it Comes to Learning English for Kids

In short, you can learn a language as soon as you like. You can learn two languages from birth without harming your baby’s development. When it comes to learning a language effectively, consistency is key.

Take it easy! Don’t push your children too hard as you’ll run the risk of putting them off English!

It’s better to bring English into their everyday lives rather than sitting them down with intensive classes! If you’d like them to learn English as a bilingual, make sure you get started before they reach the age of 7.

Encourage your child to become an independent language learner, give them the language skills to communicate with other English speakers, and make sure that when they learn a second language, they do it with a smile on their face.

Don’t forget that you’re never too old to learn a language but that you don’t need to be a master of English to help your children speak it. You can get help with Superprof's English tutors offering English courses in London, Glasgow, Manchester and Every other Uk town and city.

Learning a second language fluently can be an enjoyable challenge, especially learning English online with language learning apps, like Duolingo.

If you’d like to learn about teaching dyslexic children English, read our article on the subject!

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As an Englishman in Paris, I enjoy growing my knowledge of other languages and cultures. I'm interested in History, Economics, and Sociology and believe in the importance of continuous learning.