About the age of two, children start babbling their first words, imitating what they hear from parents and other relatives. Soon after, they put words together and if parents listen attentively, they might catch the utterance of the child’s first sentence.
It takes two years of language input for the young brain to put two and two together and identify sounds with objects, no matter what the sounds and no matter what the language. To a child, no language is impossible to acquire. Adults are the ones who decide that this or that language is difficult, but to children, all are natural and easy to acquire.
Read Related: Bilingual from Birth: Raising My Son in Two Languages
Two years of listening to a language, of being corrected, of hearing the same sounds, words, over and over throughout the day is a lot of input in order to babble just a few words. By the time the child is three, she can express herself well albeit with limited vocabulary and very simple grammar. This is the time when the lifelong language learning process starts in earnest, and the process speeds up.
Some parents may wonder whether their children have a special knack or gift for languages. Watch out for the following:
- If your child starts repeating words before age two, she is probably linguistically gifted.
- If she puts words together into sentences earlier than two and a half years of age, language comes easy to her.
- If before age one and a half she understands words and simple commands, she is gifted.
- When she is able to grasp the fact that an apple can also be a manzana without any problems, she will be bilingual from the start.
- Parents are the best language teachers in the world: they repeat, vocalize, correct, are patient and spend time with their offspring, and they know best. BUT…
People are all the same and yet they vary: we all have noses, but all are different. There are probably 7,500 million noses in the world, and no two of them are alike. So some children may start speaking later than the norm and eventually—soon—they catch up with the rest. We all learn at different paces and the fact that a child starts uttering her first words later than the neighbor’s child means absolutely nothing. The important thing is not to panic, not to fret and to just relax. Easy does it, and parents should trust themselves and their children, at least in matters linguistic. And remember that comparisons are odious, or odorous.
[Mamiverse’s Bilingual Plus is an online channel devoted to bringing parents and educators the bilingual learning tools they need in the form of digital picture books, sing-alongs, and free curriculum-based family activities.]