Year One: Teach Your Infant a Second Language

WORDS
Jessica Myers
PUBLISHED
September 2016 in
Dallas-FortWorthBaby
UPDATED
September 27, 2016
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The best time to teach your child a second language is at the same time she’s learning the first. That’s because research shows that children begin understanding and communicating even before they’re born. In the womb, babies move in sync to mom’s voice — a movement that scientists say imitates speech. Little ones — even younger than 12 months — quickly absorb what they hear and see, meaning they can pick up a foreign language or signs if they’re regularly exposed. Dr. Raúl Rojas, assistant professor and speech language pathologist at University of Texas at Dallas says we are wired to learn multiple languages and thus should be exposed to a second language early. So vamos! (That’s let’s go in Spanish.)

START NOW
Babies experiment with communication immediately after birth by crying. Their communication then continues to develop in the months ahead as they coo, babble and use gestures to converse.

Within the first three months, babies are very efficient at noticing phonetic differences, Rojas explains. So this is the best time to introduce baby to a second, even third, language.

And in our increasingly global world, kids benefit from speaking more than one language. Research suggests that in the long run, multilingual children exhibit stronger communication skills, enhanced creativity and obtain higher achievements in school and more career opportunities.

And the same can be said for babies who learn American Sign Language (ASL). Little ones master using their hands long before learning the intricacies of utilizing their tongue and vocal cords to communicate their wants, so experts suggest repeating five or six basic signs with babies, starting around 4 months or so, though it may take months for baby to reciprocate the sign for milk or hungry, for instance.

WILL LEARNING ANOTHER LANGUAGE DELAY SPEECH?
Not at all. In fact, babies who learn sign language typically speak earlier and have bigger vocabularies by age 2 than children who haven’t. And child psychologists have found that learning a second spoken language actually adds to, rather than replaces, a first language.

SIDEBAR

Cultivating A Little Linguist


The best way for a child to learn to understand a new language is through exposure. Think beyond the classroom, Dr. Raúl Rojas advises, and give kids opportunities to listen, speak and watch another language often.

SONG AND RHYME
Music is a great instrument to teach babies languages. Babies can easily hear exaggerated vowel sounds of words sung to a tune. Also, the repeated rhyming of the verses promotes phonemic awareness. Read books and find songs (check YouTube) in a second language.  

FLASH CARDS
Teach a word at a time using flash cards. Show baby that one object can have two names — one in each language. ASL flash cards help hearing parents teach babies basic words using directional arrows and descriptions of movements.

READ BOOKS
Reading promotes language and literacy development. Look for books for bilingual learners such as board books that feature illustrations and words in both English and the second language.

ENROLL KIDS IN AN IMMERSION DAY CARE
Local immersion programs provide all-day care while exposing babies (12 months and younger) to songs, dances and activities in a second language, all taught by native speakers.

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Amigos Spanish Preschool
The Colony, 214/469-1555

La Petite Ecole
Dallas, 972/671-3689

Piccolino Spanish Preschool
Keller, 817/527-8427

Spanish House Nursery School
Dallas, 214/826-4410

Spanish Schoolhouse Mommy & Me
Multiple locations

SIDEBAR

Local Language Classes For Babies


BABY SIGN LANGUAGE CLASSES
Learn ASL from Texas state certified interpreter Sarah Degough. Weekly classes teach parents and babies signs focused on different activities in baby’s life such as dinner time, counting, ABCs and simple phrases like more, please, thank you, yes and no. Parents and babies of all ages learn more than 30 signs a week in each 30–45 minute class. And Degough provides access to videos on her private Facebook page should parents need a refresher to be able to practice with their little one outside of class.
Where: The Nappy Shoppe, Plano
When: Thursday at 1:30pm
Cost: $60 for 6 weeks
469/371-5448

BABY SIGNS, TOO!
Samuel Horn teaches ASL to babies and children up to age 2. He teaches modified signs for infant hands to quickly pick up the basics like milk, love, thank you, mom and dad. Schedule a private or group session to be done in your home — or other convenient location such as the library or local community center.
Where: Dallas-Fort Worth area
When: By appointment
Cost: $35 per one-hour class; 15 percent off a six-class package, taught weekly or monthly
469/345-5998 

VACLAC HAVEL CZECH SCHOOL OF DALLAS
Nina Marcussen created an early childhood music program that teaches Czech to babies and toddlers. During the weekend class parents and babies learn Czech through memory-stimulating activities such as music, drama, dance, theater, even baking. Her mixed-age class accommodates kids ages 7 months to 4 years.
Where: The Sokol Building, Dallas
When: Sunday 10am–1pm
Cost: Free for babies 12 months and younger
214/881-6474


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