Celebrating The Bilingual Child Month with a post about language learning phases and ages.
Is your child speaking on time? Have you been wondering if your child is reading too late? Writing too early? When teaching our kids South Asian heritage languages, it's easy to fall into a comparison trap - with our families back home, with other Desi families in your adopted country, and even with our own kids’ English language abilities. 3 tips for keeping the peace while raising a bilingual family:
- First: Stop comparing!
- Second: Don’t listen to misinformation and get the facts.
- Third: Manage your expectations.
5 stages of language learning*:
- Listening comprehension: Start at birth. Start before birth! Babies are listening and building neural pathways to recognize words, tone, accents, and pronunciation. Immerse them in your target languages right from the start.
- Speaking: Start between 6 months to 30 months. Kids can learn multiple languages at once so build their vocabulary in English and your target language.
- Reading: Start by age 4 and up. In general, kids do not learn to read fluently until age 7. South Asian languages have different scripts and grammar rules, so be patient while introducing the alphabet and sight words. Learning the letter sounds is an excellent way to help improve pronunciation, as South Asian languages are phonetic.
- Writing: Start by age 5 and up. This is when handwriting skills are introduced in elementary school. Kids master the fine motor skills to properly grasp a pencil around this age. When teaching writing, be mindful of how to draw the script and point out the differences to writing in English.
- Study Skills: Start by age 10 and up. Start teaching independent study skills. Building your child's executive function (EF) will help them to be more successful at language learning on their own. Learning these study techniques at an older age are more practical and will go further, as at this age their brains are capable at a developmentally. Fluency is ultimately up to them and their efforts to study. You as a parent can set the foundation, but they will have to see fluency through on their own.
- Repeat, repeat, repeat. As they move from novice to intermediate to advanced, they will have to deepen the complexity of each of the 5 skills above. True fluency is a lifelong achievement.
*Note these age guidelines are a generalization. Each child is unique and their individual capabilities need to be considered when setting goals for language. My own kids didn’t follow these guidelines based on their neurodiversity.
In honor of October’s Celebrate the Bilingual Child Month, I’m collaborating with several other multilingual accounts to share more about childhood bilingualism! Check out the other accounts below to learn more tips.
Check out our bilingual language resources for children: bilingual books, vocabulary cards and worksheets.