Children learn languages easily. The best age for them to learn a new language is when they are young. We believe that bringing up children in a bilingual nursery will help them acquire or improve a very useful skill. Being bilingual brings so many long term benefits. Many studies* show knock-on benefits. “Babies and toddlers are cognitively advantaged by growing up in two or more language environments.” (Siraj-Blatchforn & Clarke, 2000)
What can I do to help?
The most importnat thing is to be consistent. We always follow the 1-person, 1-languag rule, and we ask the same of parents - each parent should choose a language, and only 1 language each. So dad could speak in French to your children, and you could speak German. Please always be consistent when you speak to your child.
It's absolutely fine if you use another language to each other - so in the example above, the two parents could speak to each other in English, even in front of your child. But when speaking to your child directly, switch to the language you always speak to your child in. It's called "language-relationship-consistency" - a child forms a relationship with each parent which includes the language of the interaction. It works really well to get the fastest results.
I've seen other children refuse to speak French at home...
The most important thing is consistency.... Always speak in the same language to your child. We must also remember that people, including children, usually pick the line of least resistance. Does your child have a perceived need for the language? So, being consistent with your language system and providing enough minority language interaction helps create that need for the language.
Will my child become confused?
No! Children are easily capable of learning many languages simultaneously.
The most important rule is to be consistent. All our nurseries follow the golden rule of "1 person, 1 language". So our French teachers will only ever speak to your children in French. Our English teachers will only ever speak in English.
How young can children start to learn to languages?
The younger the better! Ideally a child will experience two or more languages from birth. Most child development experts agree that the ideal window of opportunity is before the age of 6 or 7. Many specialists will say before the age of 4. I believe the ideal age is before a child starts to speak.
* Peal, E. & Lambert, 2000, The Relationship of bilingualism to intelligence
Mechelli et al, 2004, Neurolinguistics: Structural plasticity in the bilingual brain
Ricciardelli, L.A., 1992 Creativity and bilingualism
McLeay, 2003, The Relationship between bilingualism and the performance of spatial tasks
Bialystok, E., 1987 Influences of bilingualism on metalinguistic development