We are interested in families with multi-lingual children. We highly recommend all children learning a second language. It could be the language of their heritage or a brand new language. It allows the child to relate to more people, experience a whole new way of thinking and it is a great way for your child to express themselves.
We knew that Momma Braga was the perfect person to ask. Not only because she is our blogger of the year but also because her daughter, Nikki is learning how to speak Portuguese along with English.
Why should a child learn two languages?
Having the ability to know more than one language can be a great asset to any child growing up. There have been scientific studies done where it shows that learning a second language improves brain function and stimulates creativity. By learning a second language, you have the opportunity to understand the world from another culture’s perspective and gain a greater appreciation of human society in all its diversity. A second language can equip a person to communicate across cultures and be empowered to understand others’ points of view.
In today’s day in age, a second language can also provide more employment opportunities to those who speak an additional language as they can use this skill to communicate with customers or even do business with others’ from other countries. The possibilities can be endless and bright in teaching a child a second language.
What has been your experience with Nikki learning Portuguese?
I speak fluently in Portuguese as that was the first language that I learned to speak growing up as my parents did not know English. So it was important for me to teach Nikki to speak Portuguese as it would help her communicate with her grandparents and will teach her about her ancestor’s roots.
Nikki has been learning Portuguese slowly and understands what we say to her and she even responds back with some Portuguese words. I have to admit that she has been finding the English language much more appealing since she has started to grasp the ability to put sentences together. However, she is intrigued about the language that her grandparents are constantly speaking. I am fortunate that my mom which is Nikki’s Avó (grandmother) takes care of her while I work, this has helped immensely in Nikki picking up more on the language.
Nikki has a lot of fun speaking both languages and so do I. Above all we try to make it a fun experience.
When should you start teaching a second language to a child?
The beauty of the mind of a child is their ability to soak up so much information and their ability to retain it. I heard the term that their minds are just like a sponge and I see that when we are teaching Nikki. This is why we always spoke both languages since she was born. Now when we are having conversations with her the words sounds much more familiar. Between the ages of two and three years old is when children tend to learn things at a much more rapid pace. Ideally this would be the best time to have them learn a second language.
In all honesty, I believe that if someone has the desire and passion to learn something new, they can at any age.
Should you just teach some words or speaking fluently in the second language?
I would recommend to teach some words first especially if they are just learning to speak. Gradually put the words into sentences. Just as you are teaching them English you can teach them the second language. Maybe at first they may get their words confused between languages but that is okay as we learn from our mistakes. There is no need to worry as they will pick it up. It is absolutely amazing on how much children absorb everything.
Remember to take your time and if they don’t pick it up right away, it’s perfectly okay. Don’t put pressure on yourself or your child. Also remember to have fun during the process.
What is your advice for parents who speak one language but want their child to learn a second one?
Parents can look into a second language class that they can enroll their child in or if this isn’t a feasible option for you then I would suggest letting them see children shows that speak the language. For example, if you want your child to learn Spanish there are great shows that teach the language such as Dora The Explorer and even my personal favorite, Sesame Street.
Also if you have friends or family members who speak a second language ask them for pointers on their language or ask them for some help.
Should parents try to learn a second language?
Sure why not?! Never hurts to learn together with your child and it may even motivate your child to want to learn a second language. It will also help you if your child decides to say something in a second language and you don’t know what they are saying.
I believe a second language is beneficial for all who want to learn.
I personally love knowing how to speak, read and write Portuguese and it has helped me through some of past career endeavors. I am truly grateful to my parents who always made sure that I never lost my passion to keep my roots flowing through my words. Now it is my turn to do the same for my daughter.