Should I teach my toddlers a second language?

I am no ‘Uber’ mum searching for nurseries that converse only in Mandarin, but I also hope that my children will be able to speak a second language and so I have been wondering whether I should be teaching my toddlers a second language now?

toddler learning  a second language

Learning a second language as a toddler; my experience

When I was a toddler my family moved to Norway for a couple of years and so I was exposed to a second language from a very young age.  In fact I was fluent in Norwegian and English of course.  Unfortunately I am a stubborn mare and when we returned to England I was confused.  I believed Norwegian was a children’s language and point blank refused to speak to my father in any language other than English.  After a while I was becoming so distressed that he stopped trying and now I can say maybe 3 or 4 words in Norwegian.  What a shame!  But knowing that I found having two languages difficult and confusing as a toddler I started thinking about what I would do with my own children.  Should I teach my toddlers a second language?  Yes I think I should….   

7 Reasons why it makes sense for a toddler to learn a second language

  • Despite this rocky first encounter with being bilingual I went on to study languages and have a degree in German.  I am also able to get by in French and Spanish (although they are both fairly sketchy), but the point is that I have never found learning languages difficult.  I fully believe that this is because my brain was introduced to the concept of differing languages in its formative stages whilst I was still acquiring language and so was more open to different ways of thinking
  • Research suggests that learning a second language when you are young can actually help to improve a person’s ability to communicate and that it is a vital part of learning social skills
  • Learning a language prior to school age means that you don’t learn it in a formal way and tend to learn through play.  This means that you don’t have to sit and learn verb conjugations, but instead these come naturally and I found that this made it easier to then learn other languages in that formal way as I got older
  • As we get older we tend to become a bit embarrassed about trying out our newly acquired language skills and little kids just don’t have that issue
  • Toddlers are learning so many words everyday they just seem to accept this as part of life and so I have found my little ones are able to just pick up songs in French and German as easily as they do in English.  Even my little girl who has a speech delay is able to sing along to Frere Jacques  although it is the horrid henry version!
  • How else will I send them to run errands when we are on holiday?  (only jokin’!)
  • With Brexit looming I think it could become increasingly important for our children to be able to speak more than just English so that they can work and live anywhere.  Although that would also require me letting them move out and some point and I am not sure I will ever be ready for that 🙂

Now I am no expert in these things and I am currently not fluent in another language as I have not spoken German for so long – well except to the children. I reckon that something must be better than nothing and so even though they often ignore me I chat away in German to the littles and have done since they were babies.  Of course this is not enough for them to be able to properly learn a second language, but I am hoping that this will at least get their brains used to hearing another language and so develop that part of their brain…. Only time will tell on that one!

I am also trying to introduce them to French as we go there each year on holiday.  I know it isn’t a lot, but we are practising the basics as much as possible.  Surely it can’t hurt if they at least know how to say hello and order an ice cream?!  My long term plan is to learn French along with my children and Mamma Prada has some great tips for this which I am going to have a go at.


If you liked this you may like some of my other posts about managing toddlers:

Toddlers are Embarrassing

Toddler Development

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