Monday 21 August 2017

Speech, Language, Bilingualism and Homeschooling Live Q and A 2

Is the age of 4 too late to start trying harder with bilingualism?

No, it is not too late. Children are able to acquire another language fairly easily until the age of 6 or 7 years old. After this age, the ease with which a child can learn another language starts to decline and after the age of 12 or 13 years old it becomes harder still.

In his book, Trilingual by Six, Lennis Dipple states that children between the ages of 0-3 are 3 times better at language learning and children between 4-6 years old are 2 times better at language learning than older children and adults. This really shows the heightened language learning ability of young children.

If you are a fluent speaker of the language you would like your child to learn, then start speaking to them in that language now. They will not understand at first, but a 4 year old will pick it up quite quickly. Once they begin to understand you when you are speaking the new language, they will start to answer you in their first language. Then, after some time, they will begin to speak the new language too. Remember, understanding comes before speaking.

A difficulty you may have is that your child may not like you to speak in a foreign language to him. He is not used to it and this may upset him. You should explain to him that you will be speaking to him in your mother tongue from now on and that you think it is important that he learns it; explain why. Hopefully he will get used to it quite quickly.

Here is an article I wrote for Multicultural Kid Blogs that will give you some tips on foreign language learning with young children.

Should a non-speaking toddler go to school?

Yes. Young babies and children often go to nurseries if their parents are working so nursery staff will be very used to looking after young children who do not speak yet. If you are worried that your older toddler is not speaking much yet, the answer to the next question will give you some tips to help.

How to encourage a 2 year old to start putting words together

At the age of two, a child should be saying between 50-200 words and start to put two words together. For more details about the milestones of speech and language development in young children take a look at this post. After the age of two, there is a language explosion where young children can learn up to 10 new words everyday!

If your two year old has not yet started to put two words together, here are some tips to help.

Running commentary

Talk about what you are doing when you are doing it. You may feel a bit silly at first but it is a really good technique for increasing your child's language skills. The more language they are hearing, the more they will take in, understand and speak.

E.g. at breakfast time you can explain what you are doing, 'I'm getting a bowl out of the cupboard. Now I'm pouring the cereal into the bowl. Now I'm pouring the milk into the bowl. Here is you breakfast. Here is a spoon. Eat your breakfast. Yummy!'

Short, simple phrases

Do not be tempted to use long words and phrases when speaking to young children. If your child is having difficulty, simplify your speech and language. Make sentences short and easy for them to comprehend.

E.g. Instead of saying, ' Why are you throwing all your food on the floor? Stop it right now, you are making such a mess and I'm tired of cleaning it up!', say, ' No throwing food. Eat your food.'

Expand on what they say

When your child says one word, repeat it back to them as part of a phrase. This shows them how they can put that single word into a phrase and, hopefully, enable them to start doing it too.

E.g. if your child says 'car', you say, ' a big, blue car' or 'car driving'.

How can homeschooled children get enough social interaction with their peers?

Homeschooled children often get a lot of opportunities to socialise with other children of all ages. In fact, it is a more natural experience of social interaction than they would get at school. In school children spend the whole day with other children the same age as them and they do not have much time to socialise with those older or younger than them. This is not a natural way to socialise. At no other point in your life will you only be socialising with others of the same age group. As an adult, I need to be able to socialise with the whole range of age groups, from elderly people to babies. Therefore, teaching children to socialise with others of all ages can be a great advantage to them later in life. At each homeschool group we attend, there is a mix of age groups and it is wonderful to see the children learning from the older ones and helping out the younger ones.

Also, there is an abundance of homeschool groups and meetups. In my area, there are many groups to attend every day. There is almost too much; we cannot attend everything! So, my children have opportunities to interact with others every day. If you are thinking about homeschooling and worried about this particular topic, then just take a look at what there is on offer in your local homeschool community; you may be surprised at how much there is to do!

I hope you have found this video and information useful. I will be doing a Facebook live Q and A once a week where I will be answering a few of your questions. I can answer questions on any speech and language issue, bilingualism or homeschooling. If you have any questions you would like answered, please head over to my Facebook page and leave a comment on the relevant post or send me a message with the question. Alternatively, leave a question in the comments below.

Here are some popular articles I have written about speech, language and bilingualism:


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