“Is it too late to start speaking my language to our son?”

“You must start when he is a small baby!”, “No point trying after he has turned three!”, “Definitely begin before he goes to school!”, “Older than seven and he will not get fluent!”, “He’s a teenager – no way!” Those are some of the answers you may get – and do you know what, they are all wrong. It is never too late to start.

Contrary to what you may have heard or read, there is no hard and fast age before which a child has to start learning a language to be able to speak it well. Children of any age can learn to master a language. Research has shown that the only major difference is that children that have learnt a language before the age of about seven usually end up speaking the language accent-free. That said, you can still learn to speak without an accent if you learn a language later in age, it just requires a more conscious effort.

Also remember that even if you start when your son is in his late teens and he only learns to understand the language, it is still beneficial. If he were to decide to study the language later in life, it would be so much easier for him to learn.

So it is never too late to start, but it is true that the earlier you begin, the easier you will find it. The longer you wait before you start talking to your son in your language, the more effort you have to put in to change language, But it can be done, the motivation to do it just has to be that bit stronger and of course, age-appropriate.

Your six-month-old little prince won’t question the language you speak to him. He just wants to hear your voice and be with you. By the time he says his first words, a language pattern has usually established itself in the family, and he may no longer accept the change as easily. Come up with a way for him to want to speak your langue. Use whatever positive method that usually works to get him to do what you know is good for him.

I would unashamedly resort to white lies: “The new action figure can only speak my language”, bribery: “Tell me that in my language and we’ll play cricket an hour longer on Sunday” and whatever trickery you can come up with. If your son is a bit older, discuss the language choice with him and tell him why you want to change. Whatever you do, avoid threats and criticism and remember to make it fun.

May the peace and power be with you!

Yours,
Rita



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  1. A-B-C for parents bringing up bilingual children: T-Z « multilingual parenting – bilingual children

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