No need to fret if your child is past the age of 5 and has not taken a world language class yet. There is still time! The window of opportunity is open until the age of 8, and I don’t believe it’s ever too late. It just takes a little more strategizing and planning as your child gets older.
Some important points to remember:
- The older a child becomes the more self conscious he gets. Pronouncing foreign words and enunciating sounds in a foreign language will become intimidating for many by the age of 10.
- The sooner your child gets involved with world languages, the easier it will be for him to continue as he gets older and becomes busier with extra-curricular activities. Once he has a positive experience learning a language and develops a genuine interest in it, he will become aware of his progress, and will more easily accept keeping a language class in his weekly routine. It will seem logical to him to continue.
- Establish a network of friends for your child who also study languages. Children from his school, his language class or your own friends’ children. Attending a language class will have an added bonus of getting together with these friends on a regular basis. Plan a social activity after the class that he can look forward to.
- By waiting too long to introduce your child to a world language, the experience may very well become a struggle for both parent and child if the child has already become adept or involved in a sport of his choice, or developed a hobby that will take priority over incorporating a “new activity” that requires time, attention and effort. Studying a language under these circumstances will be more like a “chore” for this age group. The key is to make it a positive experience for your child.
- Children like to be challenged. Some older children may have difficulty studying a foreign language because they do not find it stimulating or challenging enough. Their initial lessons will most likely be about learning the basics: the alphabet, colors, numbers, days of the week, body parts, and animals. The child may lose interest quickly. I am a big proponent of parallel learning when learning to speak foreign language. It is more interesting and more natural when a child learns numbers and letters shortly after they have mastered them in their first language or when they learn them simultaneously.