What is The Best Age to Start Learning a Second Language?

When is the best time for children to begin acquiring second and third languages? At Satit Bilingual School of Rangsit University (SBS) we believe that earlier is better.

Bebés y recién nacidos

The work of neuroscientists has presented convincing evidence that second language learning should begin as soon as possible after birth. New-borns develop new synaptic connections at the rate of up to three billion per second. One specialist states "Todo lo que un bebé oye, ve, siente, saborea y toca es absorbido por el cerebro y almacenado en sus células de memoria". (Kotulak, 1997)

By the age of 6-8 months a baby’s brain has about 1,000 trillion synaptic connections. But, later, the number of connections begins to diminish.

Antes de los 10 años

By age 10, half of the connections have died off in the average child. However, up to that time, the brain of the young child has been like a sponge. The foundations for first and second language learning have already been set in the young brain.

En SBS animamos a los padres a inscribir a sus hijos a partir de los 2 ½ o 3 años de edad. Contemporary researchers point out that a child who is first exposed to a second language at a later stage, say 8 or 9 years of age, will not intrinsically learn it in the same way a younger-aged child would learn it. Chapelton (2016), of the British Council, has confirmed that very young children can not only differentiate among the different sounds of languages, but also they can produce the sounds that are peculiar to specific languages such as English and Chinese.

Indicador de éxito

Un indicador de preparación sería cuando los niños pequeños han empezado a mostrar signos de sentirse cómodos en entornos nuevos. Estos niños mostrarían emoción, por ejemplo, ante la perspectiva de viajar a nuevos lugares, como centros comerciales o visitar a parientes y amigos de la familia. (Vos, 2008; Diario de la Ciencia, 2019)

Chapelton adds that younger learners soon develop a fascination for the words and sounds of the new language while older learners quickly lose it. They become self-conscious and are therefore less likely to acquire a second language in the uninhibited way as younger learners. At SBS second language learning approximates the way children are acquiring their first language.

Por Dr. Apiramon Ourairat - Director General