WHY WE encourage

CHILDREN TO

LEARN languages

It’s generally acknowledged that when it comes to learning languages, the younger we do it the better. But why is this?

PHYSICAL ABILITY

Firstly, young children simply hear better. Babies are born with the ability to recognise any sound in any language. This ability decreases markedly after the age of 1, and is estimated to shut around the age of 7. After this, the likelihood of achieving native ability in a language decreases significantly.

However, even before the age of 7, the ability of children to analyse and reproduce sounds and grammatical structures decreases. Whereas a 2-year-old can imitate foreign sounds almost instantly, a 4-year-old may require a lot more time and exposure to achieve this.

CURIOSITY

VERSUS

EMBARRASSMENT

What’s more, as anyone with a young child will know, the curiosity and thirst for knowledge of very young children is intense. Where a 5-year-old may already reject a ‘foreign’ language, a 2-year old will often be keen to learn everything. Younger children are also less afraid to make mistakes.

AND HOW DO CHILDREN LEARN languages?

THE KEYS

TO LANGUAGE

BALL

TEDDY

Small children first learn to understand language by looking and pointing. They will be shown something in their environment they can understand while hearing the word for it, like ‘teddy’ or ‘hungry’.

By doing this they are obviously accumulating vocabulary. But more significantly, they are developing keys through which to decipher the stream of sounds they hear. They are able to detect the beginning and end of these words and notice how they sit with other words – for example if ‘eat’ is often followed by ‘tomato’ – and how certain patterns are repeated.

The words that children first use in this way are therefore anchor points from which all other language knowledge is built. We refer to these words as ‘key’ words. Once these ‘keys’ have been acquired, the grammar system can be gradually understood through guesswork and repetition.

Little Chatterbox app features

q2

Little Chatterbox provides young children with these first key words that will help them in all further exposures to the language and accelerate its acquisition. Repetition is built into the game routines to help children acquire these words faster.

The Little Chatterbox app also has a unique bilingual mode for toddlers and pre-schoolers which will enable them to learn their second language concurrently with their main one.

Further reading on children and language

We have assembled here a few articles / links of interest for anyone interested in learning more about children and language education.

  • A wonderful Ted Talk about the linguistic genius of babies.
    Ted talk
  • And another article about how babies already distinguish between languages before birth
    Science News