Frequently Asked Questions

When is the ideal age to teach a child a second language other than their mother tongue?

The most common and accepted view on this subject is the "Critical Period" Hypothesis. This hypothesis was first put forward by Neurolinguists Penfield and Roberts (1959) and later by Lenneberg (1967). Later research supported this view (Johnson, 1992; Johnson & Newport, 1989; Oyama, 1976; Patkowski, 1980, 1994). According to this view, there is a critical period for learning a second language. It is not impossible to learn a second language after this period. However, it is not possible to learn a second language with the same competence.

The basis of this view is based on brain development. It is emphasized that the ideal period is between the ages of 2 and adolescence, as the brain is not fully developed before the age of 2, and after adolescence, the brain becomes more mature, the right and left brain complete its development, and the malleability of the brain decreases. There are different opinions regarding this age range. According to Krashen (1973), the critical period is between the ages of 2 and 5, according to Pinker (1994), until the age of 6, according to Lenneberg (1967), until the age of 12, and according to Johnson and Newport (1989, 1991), it is until the age of 15. In short, research argues that, in terms of brain development and learning theories, the competence in learning a second language decreases with age.

We can say that the ideal age for learning a second language is early childhood and pre-adolescence. The earlier a child is exposed to a second language, the easier it will be for him to learn and use the second language fluently.

Is communicating bilingually with a baby who has not yet started speaking harmful to the child's language development? Does it delay his speech?

There is no harm in children whose parents speak different mother tongues being exposed to two languages from birth. Previously, there were some misconceptions that learning a second language confused the child and slowed down other areas of development. On the other hand, bilingual children have more developed cognitive skills, can concentrate on a task more easily, and are more successful academically.

These children learn two languages spontaneously. They do not make a special effort to learn the language. Research emphasizes that exposure to a second language before the age of 5 occurs in a more natural process in terms of the brain's language learning mechanism. These children encode both languages into their brains and can spontaneously switch between the two languages. On the other hand Due to this coding process, it may be a little later for these children to start speaking, but this is not a cause for concern, on the contrary, it is a natural process.


Can a child learn two languages at the same time?

This process is different if the mother and father's native language is the same and they want their children to learn a second language. If the parents have different native languages and everyone communicates with the child in their own language, the child encodes both languages separately in his brain. However, if both parents speak the same mother tongue and occasionally speak the second language and their accent is not very good, the child will only develop a predisposition to the second spoken language. In this case, it would be more beneficial to be exposed to the second language after the age of 2. Because until this age, it is not important for the child to learn a second language, but to establish an emotional bond with the adult and feel safe. In other words, children can be exposed to the second language through songs, but there is no need to try to teach the second language. After the age of 3, a second language can be learned through play in kindergarten. Children who grow up prone to second languages will learn the second language more easily at school.


What advantages can language education have at a young age?

Being exposed to songs and stories in the second language in early childhood makes learning the language more comfortable. During this period, as the brain is newly formed and the right and left brains have not matured, it can learn more naturally without difficulty or great effort. Can use the second language more fluently.


What method should families follow when they want to teach their children a foreign language in preschool?

Parents' desire to teach a second language should not cause them to neglect the child's emotional and social development. It may be a wrong decision to start a child in kindergarten before he or she is ready for kindergarten, especially in a bilingual school. The child's emotional development, emotional bonding, and feeling safe are paramount. If we focus on language learning and neglect the child's emotional development, there will be a delay in the child's development and his psychology may deteriorate.

For this reason, without being too insistent on the second language, the child can be exposed to the second language through play, taking into account the child's aptitude for the language. If the second language is to be learned in kindergarten, the child should go to a normal kindergarten for the first year to develop self-confidence and get used to school. In the second year of kindergarten or nursery, the child's general development can be evaluated and the child can be sent to a bilingual kindergarten. Since each child's development is different, it would be healthier to get support from an expert pedagogue.


In what cases should a second language not be taught?

If the child has emotional problems or developmental delays, the priority should be the child's development. Children who grow up isolated within four walls without socializing cannot communicate even in their native language, let alone their second language. There are serious problems in their development. Many of these children are diagnosed with pervasive developmental disorder. Children with this diagnosis cannot learn the second language anyway, and trying to teach the second language causes these children to become more withdrawn and close themselves off from learning. In children with normal development, it is sufficient for the child to have a healthy attachment to an adult (mother, caregiver, etc.), to be able to express himself/herself comfortably and to be self-confident. Parents can gradually help their children develop second language skills before kindergarten through children's songs, stories and cartoons.


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