The best time to learn a foreign language in a
Scientists talk about early consecutive and late bi/trilingualism. It is
determined by the age of the student.
- Until the age of three, we talk about early bi/trilingualism. A child learns the
language spontaneously, and naturally as his/her mother tongue under one
condition; he/she has to be “immersed” in or surrounded by the language and must be able to associate one person with one language. This is how our day-care, children between 1 and 3 years old, learn.
- Between the age of three and six bi/trilingualism is called consecutive. This means that a child still continues to learn the language spontaneously but he/she filters it through his/her subconscious knowledge of the mother tongue. The language learning process is still very quick but not as natural as before the age of three. At this age it demands more effort and this is how our pre-school and kindergarten, children between 3 and 6 years old, learn languages.
- After the age of six we learn languages following the pattern of late bi/trilingualism. Our mother tongue becomes a filter for the structures of a foreign language. Learning the language at this step involves acquiring grammar knowledge, structures, vocabulary, and other linguistic elements. The older we are, the greater the effort we will need to invest in order to learn a language.