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    #249019 - 07/12/21 06:15 AM Preschooler Learning Multiple Foreign Languages
    GCN3030 Offline
    Junior Member

    Registered: 06/05/21
    Posts: 4
    Does anyone else have any experience with a preschooler learning multiple foreign languages?

    My 3 year old son (turning 4 at the end of this month), has been learning German and Spanish since he was a baby and more recently has picked up some French, Mandarin Chinese, Italian, and Latin. He has also expressed some interest in Greek and Hebrew (for example recently when I told him the bible was originally written in Greek and Hebrew, he responded by saying that he wanted to read it in the original).

    The other day when trying to get him to apologize for splashing his Mom from the tub because he didn't want to wash his hair, he deflected by telling me he didn't know how to say sorry in Chinese which then led to him asking me how to say it in French, Latin, and Greek. Then he asked me if there were any other languages and, after I told him that, yes, there are hundreds of other langauges, he said "what's that other one oh yeah Hebrew I don't know how to say it in Hebrew either" (we had watched an episode of "Superbook" the previous day in which one character said a single line in Hebrew and he immediately commented that he couldn't understand it and asked what language he was speaking). This has become a pattern recently, for example my wife told me he sneezed the other day and she said bless you and he responded by saying he didn't know how to say that in "Italy or French".

    My wife and I are monolingual English speakers with only very limited foreign language ability (she took some Spanish in School, I took some German in High School and more recently I have been learning some Mandarin Chinese on my own for work).

    This all started because I thought it might be beneficial to teach him some German, so when he was a baby I let him watch Sing Mit Mir Kinderleider videos and later, starting when he was 18 months old, enrolled him in a Parent and Me German Class where we sang Nursery Rhymes etc. which he rather enjoyed. In addition when he was about 5 months old we hired a native Spanish speaking nanny full time and told her to just speak to him in Spanish (partly because her English is not very good...) and she has been with us ever since so now he speaks Spanish fluently. The Mandarin Chinese started at age 2 when he noticed I was trying to learn some on my phone so we began doing it together a little bit. After he had learned numbers in English, Spanish, and German I figured why not teach him in Mandarin too and he quickly picked it up including the Chinese characters for the numbers. The French started because my mom had taught me a tiny bit of french as a kid (I could count to 3 basically) so I figured I'd teach him that too and he quickly wanted to learn more so now we can both count to ten. This was all before he was 3.

    The Greek started because he had already learned the alphabet in English, Spanish, and German before he was 3 so I figured why not challenge him and see if he could learn it in Greek too since it would certainly be helpful to know in the future for math and science etc. I learned along with him and now he can recite the whole Greek Alphabet.

    The interest in Italian started more recently because he heard Carmen San Diego (one of his favorite cartoons) say "arrivederci", so lately he thinks it's fun to say that instead of goodbye.

    Since he was showing a lot of interest and ability in languages I invested in the "Song School Latin" program to see if it would pique his interest amd sure enough it did (although when I first told him we were going to watch a Latin DVD, believe it or not, he responded by saying "what about Greek, Dad? I want to learn Greek.") and now he really likes the DVD especially the little cartoon monkey "simian". I noticed he's even been picking up some advanced English vocabularly from it for example he was joking around with my wife and I the other day saying that his brother was a "lunatic" (this word was discussed in the video because luna comes from the latin for moon and the English word is derived from it).

    I have invested in a bunch of different Language Tree DVDs and he likes those as well as the Usborne First Hundred Words in Spanish and French Videos which he really enjoys watching. I also got him the Uncle Goose wooden blocks in all the different languages. In addition we have lots of books etc.

    Anyway I guess I just thought I would share my experience and see if anyone else out there has or has had a preschooler who is learning multiple foreign languages.

    #249080 - 08/06/21 09:01 AM Re: Preschooler Learning Multiple Foreign Languages [Re: GCN3030]
    indigo Offline

    Registered: 04/27/13
    Posts: 4902
    Kudos to you for supporting your child in this endeavor, as many say that it is easier to learn a language when one is young.

    Although there were fewer resources back in the day, we had a family member intent on learning various languages.

    Related article:
    Why It's So Hard to Learn Another Language After Childhood
    by Jamie Ducharme
    May 2, 2018

    This recent thread may also be of interest:
    Great foreign language curriculum

    #249087 - 08/07/21 07:16 AM Re: Preschooler Learning Multiple Foreign Languages [Re: GCN3030]
    aquinas Offline

    Registered: 11/02/12
    Posts: 2504
    I would focus on two or three languages total and aim for mastery. If he is wired to be a polyglot, he will be able to pick up other languages as he gets older. As he matures, so will the vocabulary and linguistic constructs he accesses, much like progressive overload in athletics.

    If languages are his angle, you might consider enrolling him in a school whose primary language of instruction is not English.

    A word to consider: your son now has phonemic processing capabilities for languages in the Romance and Indo-Germanic groups. If he has interest in a language with a radically different phonemic structure (Mandarin, Arabic, etc), you may want him exposed earlier. We actually lose the auditory ability to discriminate non-native phonemes as we age. (Patricia Kuehl is an excellent resource.)

    In your shoes, I would consider weekend language classes in his favourite foreign language from among the list you’ve provided, so long as he delights in the activity, and a half-half immersion school in English and Spanish during the school week, given that it sounds like he’s had the richest exposure to Spanish.

    Practically speaking, Spanish, English, and Mandarin are the most extensively used languages of the list. Unless he has a family connection to French, Greek, Italian, or German - and the reasonable expectation of daily practice with a native speaker in those - I would save them until he’s older. His current languages give him sufficient phonemic access that he could credibly learn to speak them with a native accent later.
    What is to give light must endure burning.

    #249098 - 08/13/21 10:51 AM Re: Preschooler Learning Multiple Foreign Languages [Re: GCN3030]
    aquinas Offline

    Registered: 11/02/12
    Posts: 2504
    GCN3030 - are you still with us?
    What is to give light must endure burning.

    #249099 - 08/13/21 11:45 AM Re: Preschooler Learning Multiple Foreign Languages [Re: aquinas]
    Team3 Offline
    Junior Member

    Registered: 03/12/21
    Posts: 9
    Loc: New York
    Originally Posted By: aquinas
    GCN3030 - are you still with us?

    My posts displayed with a lag until there were five of them. Interestingly, I'm able to post now despite the fact that a couple of the first five are still in the moderation queue.

    So perhaps the lag is GCN3030's issue as well.

    #249104 - 08/16/21 03:29 PM Re: Preschooler Learning Multiple Foreign Languages [Re: GCN3030]
    aquinas Offline

    Registered: 11/02/12
    Posts: 2504
    Could be. smile

    Edited by aquinas (08/16/21 03:29 PM)
    What is to give light must endure burning.

    #249721 - 05/02/22 08:46 AM Re: Preschooler Learning Multiple Foreign Languages [Re: GCN3030]
    GCN3030 Offline
    Junior Member

    Registered: 06/05/21
    Posts: 4
    Hello Aquinas sorry for not responding earlier I honestly just didn't log back on for a really long time for some reason.

    Anyway yeah I totally agree with you in terms of primarily focusing on 1 or 2 foreign languages, mainly we have continued and plan to continue with Spanish and German for foreign langauge. This makes the most sense since he still has his spanish speaking Nanny that has been with us over 4 years now and the fact that I can speak a tiny bit of German plus he still loves watching German cartoons. I consider exposure to other langauges as enrichment that may be beneficial generally or later in life should he choose to explore them further.

    In terms of formal schooling the plan is hopefully in the Fall the German Saturday school will stop requiring masks and he can return there (even though he has a medical exemption from our doctor sadly they still wouldn't allow him in the classroom). He really wants to go back, he was so upset when they shut down back in early 2020 he told me "I wanna go to German school Dad...(awkward silence)...please don't say it's closed Dad!", it is a real shame he couldn't attend again when they finally reopened. They did zoom for awhile before that but it wasn't the same my son would tell me "I don't wanna do zoom Dad, I want to go to the big school!".

    In terms of regular schooling during the week I would definitely consider a dual language immersion school if I could find one that my son could attend if it was otherwise suitable for him. As it stands now for various reasons it looks like I will probably end up homeschooling him myself long-term.


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