The role of writing and reading in a target language is a controversial issue. There are two schools of thought on writing and reading in a target language. Some experts believe a child learning a second language should master writing and reading in his mother tongue before attempting to write and read in the target language. Other experts believe there is a safe and gradual way to introduce reading and writing and that it is dependent on the child’s developmental stage. They also stress that writing and reading should be introduced up to two years after having been listening and speaking the target language.
Every child is different, yet based on my experience, I agree with the latter school of thought. Numerous factors impact when a child should begin writing and reading in the target language. My 6 year old had been listening and speaking German for about 3 years when his teacher at German School introduced writing. The timing was just right for him. He was simultaneously learning how to recognize and spell sight words in English, so engaging in the same type of exercise at German School made it seamless for him. By no means has he discovered or broken the reading code in English, but just as he is being gradually introduced to writing and reading in English, he is gradually being introduced to the same concepts in German. His experience has been a positive and natural one as he has not questioned or expressed discontent with writing in German and insists on spelling certain German words independently.
The fact that he is picking up German spelling and sentence structure in such a natural manner in light of the fact that no one in our family is a native German speaker is encouraging, to say the least. He attends German school once a week for nearly two hours and we have been supplementing his formal lessons by watching German DVD’s, listening to German songs and stories in the car, playing German games, doing German activities, and attending German cultural events.
Any support you can offer your child in the acquisition of a second language will be well worth your time and effort as it will further empower your child and pique his interest as he discovers his new abilities in the target language.
Frohe Weihnachten! Happy Holidays!