Engaging the Sensitive Period for Language


According to Montessori, there are “sensitive periods” in which the child is intensely interested in and ideally suited to learn different skills. The earliest and longest lasting of these is the sensitive period for language, lasting from birth to age six. Doman also speaks of the incredible ease of learning language in this period, although he caps the range at age five. Others say that native-level fluency is most easily attained between birth and age three, with the window of ease closing around six or seven years of age. There is a general agreement, however, that earlier is easier when it comes to learning language.

We are fully utilizing this sensitive period with baby D. In addition to the reading cards, we make sure that he hears several languages spoken every day. His dad reads to him in Russian. One of the Russian language books we have is  Voyage of the Dawn Treader from the Chronicles of Narnia series.

I read French language children’s books aloud– this gives me a chance to work on correct pronunciation, also. Our public library has a small but well stocked foreign language section in the children’s department. Here is what we have currently:

It is important to us that he hear language spoken correctly. While his dad has near native level fluency in Russian and Arabic, and very respectable Mandarin, I have what I learned in high school french class. So I am listening to as much spoken French as I can, exposing baby D to recorded spoken French, and pronouncing what I read to him as carefully as I can. We are very happy to be able to open up the world of language for baby D. It will be fascinating to see how his understanding of multiple languages develops.

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2 Comments

  1. This is great work! I worked as a Spanish teacher in Toddler and Primary classrooms for a long time and it truly makes such a difference to engage that sensitive period. I’ve even taught students that were learning three or four languages concurrently.

    Sometimes it slightly delays language development in the strongest language, and that can dissuade parents. It’s a mistake to not take advantage of this time! A couple of months of frustration are nothing, knowing three or four languages for the rest of your (or their) life is so valuable. So many opportunities and roads open up!

    Bon courage!

    Reply
    • Thank you for the encouragement! It is very heartening to hear from someone who has worked with children who are learning multiple languages.

      Reply

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