Have you ever wondered why kids are able to pick up languages so easily? Why is it so much harder to learn a language as an adult? And why is it difficult to sound like a native speaker in a language later in life? Meanwhile kids seem to learn so effortlessly just by watching a cartoon or by hearing people speak the language…
So Why Do Kids Learn Languages Faster?
There are many factors, but what it really boils down to is how their brains work compared to an adult’s. The truth is that at a young age, their brains are still forming. So, they are prepared and more capable of absorbing a lot of new information like a sponge.
How the Brain Works…
To be more scientific, in the early development stages of the brain, we create new neural connections and pathways in our brain that are key to communication. So, when we grow up and the brain becomes developed, the brain strengthens and improves these neural pathways that already exist.
This makes our brains more efficient as adults because we can use these pathways like shortcuts in our heads. However, it makes it harder to learn new languages because we rely on the neural pathways and shortcuts that we’re familiar with, such as the sounds and language structure we already know, which makes it more difficult to form new neural pathways needed to learn another language.
So basically, when we’re young, our brains are like a superpower… Languages can be learned quicker, retained more easily, and we are able to speak with incredible pronunciation! This period is sometimes called the critical period because it is simply the best time to learn a language. This is not only true of learning your native language but also for second languages too.
That’s not to say that you can’t learn another language as an adult… But if you can take advantage of learning during this stage in life, you should!
Why Don’t Kids Have Foreign Accents?
There are a lot of sounds used in the different languages around the world. Many of these sounds are very unfamiliar to us and we may have a hard time pronouncing them correctly. But that’s usually not the case for kids…
Not only are they excellent at understanding language structure and grammar more naturally, but they also have a keen ear when it comes to phonetics… This means they are able to hear and distinguish different sounds more easily. So, they can understand the language being spoken and speak it with more accurate pronunciation.
An interesting fact about phonetics, is that most people older than 12 can’t hear new sounds and phonemes properly or have a very hard time doing so. This is true particularly for sounds from a language that wasn’t present earlier in their lives. Which is why many adults have a hard time pronouncing words in a new language.
Exposure is Key!
That is why it is important to at least expose kids to languages that they may want to learn later on in life (like French!). They don’t necessarily need to learn the language right away. But if you even just immerse them in the language or sit them in front of some French cartoons, it will be beneficial. They may not learn the language immediately, but they will adopt the phonemes and sounds that they hear, and they will be able to pronounce words and talk like a native speaker more easily, even if they learned the language later in life!
Learn While it’s Easier!
You don’t want to miss the opportunity for your kids to learn a second language while they are young! Otherwise, when they grow up, they will wish you had put them in those French classes and camps when they were younger… Do them a favour and give them the gift of a second language while it’s easiest for them to learn it. They may think of learning French as boring now, but don’t worry you’ll eventually hear a “Merci” when they grow up and become bilingual!
Remember! This critical period to learn is a short window that lasts until around the age of 12… So, if your kids fall within this range, make sure to take advantage of the situation and encourage them to learn now. It will give them a brighter future with more opportunities, career options and cultural perspectives!
Luckily, here at Le Petit Écolier, we have plenty of French Programs that help to target that age range! We have classes, camps and more programs that help kids learn French during this critical learning period while immersing them in the language!
Now that you understand why your kids learn languages faster, you can sign your kids up in our upcoming programs and classes below. And as always, feel free to contact us with any questions!