Languages and children

This is our main forum. Here, anything related to languages and linguistics can be discussed.

Moderator: Forum Administrators

User avatar
Antea
Posts: 3452
Joined: 2015-08-23, 10:53
Real Name: c
Gender: female

Languages and children

Postby Antea » 2015-10-23, 7:25

Hy everybody! I would like your opinion about teaching languages to children. I mean, when I started to learn english in school at 12, it really was an ordeal. At first I couldn't understand anything, I passed the class time in fear of the teacher asking me something, because I didn't understand her. And then the lessons where mostly grammar. When I left school and began to study on my own it was really better, because no pressure and no fear. But then I spent many, many years studying.

So, the questions are these:

If a child starts learning a language early (age 5, for example), but only 1 hour per week, do you think he will eventually learn the language and be able to speak and understand it later, at 18 for example?

Or do you think that this conventional method is a waste of time, and that with only 1 hour per week he will never be able to reach a good level?

Have any of you had this experience in your childhood with any language? And was it useful for you?

Thanks

User avatar
Vlürch
Posts: 891
Joined: 2014-05-06, 8:42
Gender: male
Location: Roihuvuori, Helsinki
Country: FI Finland (Suomi)

Re: Languages and children

Postby Vlürch » 2015-10-23, 12:07

I started learning English with help from my dad when I was 5 or so because there was so much English on TV, in Pokémon cards, videogames, etc. and I just thought it was an interesting language; I didn't even know that it would be useful later in life, and if I had known, I'm pretty sure I wouldn't have been as interested in it. Now that I'm 21, I consider myself almost fluent, and the problems I have nowadays are generally related to pronunciation and forgetting some more uncommon words. I was definitely nowhere near the level of being able to have actual conversations in English when I was 13, which is why I made a fool of myself online over and over again on forums and chatrooms because I got really easily offended and angry if I misunderstood what someone meant and took pretty much everything as a personal insult (I had some anger management issues and whatnot back then, heh), but interacting with native English-speakers and other people learning English online helped me a lot.

So, if you want to teach a kid a language, you should find something to motivate them. I would definitely be a really bad parent and you shouldn't take anything I say seriously, but one way to teach them English would be to just let them do whatever on the internet that they want and they'd naturally pick up English as they search for things they shouldn't be searching for, which means they'd have to use Google Translate or something at the very least. They might embarrass themselves, they might get told to kill themselves, they might end up becoming Neo-Nazis or Jihadists, but that's why it would be important to teach them that the internet is not a nice place and that thousands of people they will encounter will want to cause them real-life harm, and to make sure to never reveal their real identity to anyone, etc. like kids my age were taught. I don't want to stray too much from the actual topic, but the fact that kids spend more and more time online and become exposed to porn, gore, trolls, harassment, etc. earlier and earlier means parents should spend more and more time helping their kids to understand it; the solution isn't to clean up the internet, because the internet is a reflection of the real world and the real world is an absolutely horrifying and scary place.

Anyway, the point is that if you want to teach kids English, they need a motivator to learn English that their parents don't approve of. I mean, one of the reasons I wanted to get fluent in English was so that I could troll people on omegle pretending to be an American hypernationalist. :lol:

User avatar
Johanna
Language Forum Moderator
Posts: 6576
Joined: 2006-09-17, 18:05
Real Name: Johanna
Gender: female
Location: Lidköping, Westrogothia
Country: SE Sweden (Sverige)

Re: Languages and children

Postby Johanna » 2015-10-23, 14:05

Antea wrote:So, the questions are these:

If a child starts learning a language early (age 5, for example), but only 1 hour per week, do you think he will eventually learn the language and be able to speak and understand it later, at 18 for example?

Or do you think that this conventional method is a waste of time, and that with only 1 hour per week he will never be able to reach a good level?

Have any of you had this experience in your childhood with any language? And was it useful for you?

I learnt German, French and Spanish this way, albeit 2 hours a week, but this was before everyone had internet at home, or at least something better and cheaper than dial-up that severely restricted the amount of hours you could use it, so I never really got exposure to them outside the classroom.

When it came to German, which I started at age 12, I could understand and speak it fairly well after four years, at least the standard variety. Sure, there were quite a few things we never had the time to get to, but the stuff I did know I could use fluently, and had I continued to study it I would probably have been completely fluent today. But German is very closely related to my native language and on top of that Swedish got as many words from its sister Low German as English got from French, so the threshold wasn't too high.

Now French and Spanish on the other hand, those I studied for three years starting at age 16, and I never really could hold a conversation in either of them that didn't include a lot of stumbling and mistakes even though we went about it much more intensely and by year three we had formally surpassed the level of German that I ended on. Or well, in Spanish that was true for me trying to hold a conversation, but at least my teacher did a huge effort to get us talking, in French the only oral exercise we really did was reading out loud so venturing beyond a few basic sentences was a huge effort. I could read French a bit better than Spanish though, but I think that could be because of all the French words in English that look identical or very similar.

Bear in mind that when I was a teenager learning languages came very easily to me - I picked up on patterns, vocabulary and subtleties a lot faster than almost every single one of my classmates - and this approach still only worked for a language that is a close cousin of my own.

English though, the language that I've been exposed to through media since before I was born, the language that the library even in my small town had a pretty large selection of books to choose from in, the language that I started to actually use instead of merely study early on in high school? Yep, that's the only language apart from Swedish that I'm fluent in and that I didn't forget most of pretty much the second I stopped actively studying it. Actually it was the opposite, that there were no more English classes didn't do any harm at all, I continued learning through simply using the language, and here I am 12 years later and a lot better at it than I was back then.

So no, I don't think only using a language in school one or two hours a week is a good approach at all, especially since it's a sure way of making the child associate it mostly or only with a boring classroom, homework and exams. And there's really no need to go about it that way these days with the internet and all, finding books, TV programmes, radio programmes and films in foreign languages has never been so easy before :)

Starting early is of course always a good idea, but by that age you don't really need a classroom, at the age of 5 it's pretty useless since they'll pick up a lot by for example simply watching cartoons in that language, like a friend of mine did. Sure, she couldn't speak it before she started learning it in school, but when she did, what came out was without the usual mistakes and with a much better pronunciation than other kids the same age.
Swedish (sv) native; English (en) good; Norwegian (no) read fluently, understand well, speak badly; Danish (dk) read fluently, understand badly, can't speak; Faroese (fo) read some, understand a bit, speak a few sentences; German (de) French (fr) Spanish (es) forgetting; heritage language, want to understand and speak but can't.

User avatar
OldBoring
Language Forum Moderator
Posts: 5932
Joined: 2012-12-08, 7:19
Real Name: Francesco
Gender: male
Location: Milan
Country: IT Italy (Italia)
Contact:

Re: Languages and children

Postby OldBoring » 2015-10-23, 15:35

In Italy the expression "inglese scolastico" (=school-taught English) is an euphemism for "basic / non-conversational English". That's enough to get an idea.

User avatar
linguoboy
Posts: 23707
Joined: 2009-08-25, 15:11
Real Name: Da
Location: Chicago
Country: US United States (United States)

Re: Languages and children

Postby linguoboy » 2015-10-23, 15:56

Antea wrote:If a child starts learning a language early (age 5, for example), but only 1 hour per week, do you think he will eventually learn the language and be able to speak and understand it later, at 18 for example?

It all depends. There are so many variables to take into account, starting with "Does the child have opportunities to use the language outside of class?" Johanna's experience is indicative here. She had lots of exposure to English outside of class and it was of a positive sort that motivated her to learn the language, so she came out with fluency.

The learning environment is also a factor, since we all know people with an aptitude for particular subjects (be they languages or maths or music) who were put off them due to negative experiences in school--terrible textbooks, narrow-minded instructors, mockery from their peers, etc. But a motivated student will find a way to overcome these obstacles and one who isn't won't accomplish much even in their absence.
"Richmond is a real scholar; Owen just learns languages because he can't bear not to know what other people are saying."--Margaret Lattimore on her two sons

vijayjohn
Language Forum Moderator
Posts: 24650
Joined: 2013-01-10, 8:49
Real Name: Vijay John
Gender: male
Location: Taipei
Country: TW Taiwan (臺灣)
Contact:

Re: Languages and children

Postby vijayjohn » 2015-10-23, 17:56

Yeah. When I was in elementary school, for just one year, we had the opportunity to take Spanish classes once a week (and not even that often if the teacher happened to be sick or something...), and that was the only time in elementary school we ever had an opportunity to take any kind of foreign language classes. On its own, it was totally useless, but I've pretty much always loved languages, so I tried to milk our shoddy learning material for all it was worth - at least until my dad started talking dismissively about my efforts to do that. More importantly, though, I was determined to learn Spanish anyway, so over time, I found other resources that helped me learn a lot more.

User avatar
linguoboy
Posts: 23707
Joined: 2009-08-25, 15:11
Real Name: Da
Location: Chicago
Country: US United States (United States)

Re: Languages and children

Postby linguoboy » 2015-10-23, 17:58

vijayjohn wrote:Yeah. When I was in elementary school, for just one year, we had the opportunity to take Spanish classes once a week (and not even that often if the teacher happened to be sick or something...), and that was the only time in elementary school we ever had an opportunity to take any kind of foreign language classes.

We didn't even have that; I came to foreign languages completely on my own. (Both my parents are monolingual even though they lived--and met--in Central America.) But that does more-or-less describe our computer instruction.
"Richmond is a real scholar; Owen just learns languages because he can't bear not to know what other people are saying."--Margaret Lattimore on her two sons

User avatar
Antea
Posts: 3452
Joined: 2015-08-23, 10:53
Real Name: c
Gender: female

Re: Languages and children

Postby Antea » 2015-10-24, 12:58

Thanks for your answers. I love languages and I think it's important to know some of them and I really think that knowing english is nowadays compulsory. I would like to make things easier for them, but I don't know very much how to do it. As we live in Catalonia, the only exposure we have it's to catalan and spanish. So it's not so easy to practise the language here, if you're not working in the tourism industry. I will try with cartoons and children books and we will see :hmm:

User avatar
linguoboy
Posts: 23707
Joined: 2009-08-25, 15:11
Real Name: Da
Location: Chicago
Country: US United States (United States)

Re: Languages and children

Postby linguoboy » 2015-10-24, 14:51

Antea wrote:As we live in Catalonia, the only exposure we have it's to catalan and spanish. So it's not so easy to practise the language here, if you're not working in the tourism industry. I will try with cartoons and children books and we will see :hmm:

Aren't there like thousands of English-speaking retirees living there?

My sister dated a guy from Mallorca who went to the American school in Palma. His English was nearly fluent, and so was his sisters' even though they went to ordinary state schools. Is there nothing like that where you are?
"Richmond is a real scholar; Owen just learns languages because he can't bear not to know what other people are saying."--Margaret Lattimore on her two sons

vijayjohn
Language Forum Moderator
Posts: 24650
Joined: 2013-01-10, 8:49
Real Name: Vijay John
Gender: male
Location: Taipei
Country: TW Taiwan (臺灣)
Contact:

Re: Languages and children

Postby vijayjohn » 2015-10-24, 19:51

FWIW, I think foreign language classes for children are a great idea (or at least can be). I just think they should be a lot more than just one hour a week because that seems like not nearly enough exposure to learn a language...

User avatar
linguoboy
Posts: 23707
Joined: 2009-08-25, 15:11
Real Name: Da
Location: Chicago
Country: US United States (United States)

Re: Languages and children

Postby linguoboy » 2015-10-25, 6:31

vijayjohn wrote:FWIW, I think foreign language classes for children are a great idea (or at least can be). I just think they should be a lot more than just one hour a week because that seems like not nearly enough exposure to learn a language...

It isn't, but learning a language isn't the only reason to take language classes. In some cases, just introducing children to the concept of languages other than their own is valuable work.
"Richmond is a real scholar; Owen just learns languages because he can't bear not to know what other people are saying."--Margaret Lattimore on her two sons

vijayjohn
Language Forum Moderator
Posts: 24650
Joined: 2013-01-10, 8:49
Real Name: Vijay John
Gender: male
Location: Taipei
Country: TW Taiwan (臺灣)
Contact:

Re: Languages and children

Postby vijayjohn » 2015-10-25, 6:44

linguoboy wrote:
vijayjohn wrote:FWIW, I think foreign language classes for children are a great idea (or at least can be). I just think they should be a lot more than just one hour a week because that seems like not nearly enough exposure to learn a language...

It isn't, but learning a language isn't the only reason to take language classes. In some cases, just introducing children to the concept of languages other than their own is valuable work.

But then do you even need a language class just to do that? If we can introduce children to the concepts of countries, history, etc. in one class broadly called "social studies," for example, then why not the concept of foreign languages as well?

User avatar
Antea
Posts: 3452
Joined: 2015-08-23, 10:53
Real Name: c
Gender: female

Re: Languages and children

Postby Antea » 2015-10-25, 9:12

vijayjohn wrote:But then do you even need a language class just to do that? If we can introduce children to the concepts of countries, history, etc. in one class broadly called "social studies," for example, then why not the concept of foreign languages as well?


It's all included on language classes. Because usually teachers don't only teach the language, but they also introduce the culture of the country. Because children learn mostly through concepts like celebrations and traditions. For example, if you're learning english, in class they use to do something special for Halloween, or if you're learning german they celebrate Sankt Martinstag und die Laternen Fest mit Lieder (songs) and traditional stories.

linguoboy wrote: In some cases, just introducing children to the concept of languages other than their own is valuable work.
.

I agree with that. For me, who was used only to the word order and sentence structures of roman languages, it was pretty difficult to grasp the german structure, for instance.

By trying to introduce them to other languages, I would like that they acquire some basis (maybe fluency is not really possible without practise or without exposure :hmm: ), that allow them later on life to learn better and easier some languages, if they want to.

User avatar
Antea
Posts: 3452
Joined: 2015-08-23, 10:53
Real Name: c
Gender: female

Re: Languages and children

Postby Antea » 2015-10-25, 9:18

Of course, it would be nice if moreover they could achieve some fluency... :ohwell:

User avatar
linguoboy
Posts: 23707
Joined: 2009-08-25, 15:11
Real Name: Da
Location: Chicago
Country: US United States (United States)

Re: Languages and children

Postby linguoboy » 2015-10-25, 15:04

vijayjohn wrote:But then do you even need a language class just to do that? If we can introduce children to the concepts of countries, history, etc. in one class broadly called "social studies," for example, then why not the concept of foreign languages as well?

You can introduce them to the concept that other languages exist, but I'm talking about the idea that they are vehicles of expression as fully-developed as their own and that there is an entire culture (or cultures) which can for the most part only be accessed through the medium of one. That's not intuitive to monolinguals living in hegemonic communities and they need an active demonstration of how this works.
"Richmond is a real scholar; Owen just learns languages because he can't bear not to know what other people are saying."--Margaret Lattimore on her two sons

User avatar
Johanna
Language Forum Moderator
Posts: 6576
Joined: 2006-09-17, 18:05
Real Name: Johanna
Gender: female
Location: Lidköping, Westrogothia
Country: SE Sweden (Sverige)

Re: Languages and children

Postby Johanna » 2015-10-25, 18:58

Antea wrote:As we live in Catalonia, the only exposure we have it's to catalan and spanish. So it's not so easy to practise the language here, if you're not working in the tourism industry. I will try with cartoons and children books and we will see :hmm:

Even if I did get some exposure to English through media back before the internet became huge, it was a drop in the sea compared to what I've got since, it's not like you'd hear English on the street. Which you still normally don't, only when there's someone around who doesn't know Swedish, like a tourist or recent immigrant.

In other words, you can easily make up the difference and then some by taking advantage of the internet and everything you can find there :)

Edit: Another thing that made my level climb considerably when started reading books in English, and later watch TV series and films on the internet, was that I immersed myself completely in the language for a while, even if only for 40-60 minutes at a time. There was no translation into Swedish at the end of the book, nor any subtitles that I could rely on if there was something I didn't hear clearly or didn't understand for other reasons, and once my brain had adjusted it became almost like a sponge. That's something I could never get from traditional Swedish media, since films and TV series were always subtitled and books were of course translated with no English left all.
Swedish (sv) native; English (en) good; Norwegian (no) read fluently, understand well, speak badly; Danish (dk) read fluently, understand badly, can't speak; Faroese (fo) read some, understand a bit, speak a few sentences; German (de) French (fr) Spanish (es) forgetting; heritage language, want to understand and speak but can't.

User avatar
Antea
Posts: 3452
Joined: 2015-08-23, 10:53
Real Name: c
Gender: female

Re: Languages and children

Postby Antea » 2015-10-25, 21:00

Yes, internet is were I look for children cartoons and ideas. It s the best source for finding audiovisual material.

User avatar
Johanna
Language Forum Moderator
Posts: 6576
Joined: 2006-09-17, 18:05
Real Name: Johanna
Gender: female
Location: Lidköping, Westrogothia
Country: SE Sweden (Sverige)

Re: Languages and children

Postby Johanna » 2015-10-25, 22:00

It sure is :)

Also, even if you (general "you" this time) don't watch or listen to things by streaming or downloading, finding physical copies for reasonable prices of pretty much everything has become much, much easier. There's eBay, Amazon, using a search engine to discover web shops you didn't even know existed before but that carry the item you want and that ship to where you live.

For example, if you live in a Western country and want to read a book by a Swedish author in Swedish, you're sure to find at least one web shop from which you can obtain it. Shipping will probably be a bit more than within Sweden, but that's the only obstacle really, whereas 20 years ago it was borderline impossible for someone in Spain and not willing to travel to get hold of a book in Swedish even if they knew where to begin; for the average Spaniard it was truly impossible.

And that's for a relatively small and quite local language, things in English are much easier to find :)
Swedish (sv) native; English (en) good; Norwegian (no) read fluently, understand well, speak badly; Danish (dk) read fluently, understand badly, can't speak; Faroese (fo) read some, understand a bit, speak a few sentences; German (de) French (fr) Spanish (es) forgetting; heritage language, want to understand and speak but can't.

User avatar
Prowler
Posts: 1960
Joined: 2013-07-19, 5:09
Gender: male
Country: PT Portugal (Portugal)

Re: Languages and children

Postby Prowler » 2015-10-25, 22:26

I found it harder to learn languages and well everything as a kid than I do now as an adult. I'm sure it'd take me longer to learn language if I started at, let's say, 20 than at 6-7 years old, but I also believe that I'd master the basics quicker. When I began browsing the net daily at age 10, I found all the English pretty intimidating as I found it in video games, due to all the words and grammar that was not present in my English tests from 1st to 6th grade.

User avatar
Antea
Posts: 3452
Joined: 2015-08-23, 10:53
Real Name: c
Gender: female

Re: Languages and children

Postby Antea » 2015-10-26, 6:00

Well, my children are still small and the older one has just begun to read. So they they can't learn a language in the usual way an adult would do (with grammar, rules, etc).

Johanna wrote:finding physical copies for reasonable prices of pretty much everything has become much, much easier


I always buy the books and other material because they really have to be adapted for the age of children and the books have to be children books with big pictures and colours on it, and big letters (and they usually have pop ups and things like that inside, to make them attractive).

Children at this younger age who are learning a language as a foreign language (not because it's the mother tongue of one of his parents) do learn more by hearing and playing. They could retain words like numbers, colours or animals, and they can understand something in the language. As for making sentences and expressing themselves in the foreign language, it's more difficult and takes more time. I don't know still how many time they will need :hmm: , that was the reason I was asking if with one hour per week, maybe after 5-6 years it would be possible for them to reach some level of the language. :hmm:

Prowler wrote:I'm sure it'd take me longer to learn language if I started at, let's say, 20 than at 6-7 years old, but I also believe that I'd master the basics quicker.


I suppose that a teen could learn faster because of course he can read, has a better understanding of grammar and languages, and has an interest in internet. But then, experts are always saying that the younger they begin with the language, the better. So 'm trying to give them some basis. Maybe they will not learn the language now, but they will be familiar with it, and when they will be older it won't be a shock to begin with a conventional study of a foreign language (in school, for example :roll: ).


Return to “General Language Forum”

Who is online

Users browsing this forum: No registered users and 1 guest