Bilingualism in babies, the sooner the better
It is never too early or too late to learn a new language. However, the youngest ones have a greater facility to listen, become familiar with the new language and, finally, become bilingual. For that reason, that parents introduce a new language at home since children are babies will take the first step to achieve bilingualism.
Currently, bilingualism is a reality in many families. Nowadays, it is normal to see how in many homes, fathers and mothers, either by their origins or by the mere interest of their children learning new languages, speak to their children in a language different from their mother tongue. In addition to the encouragement that is achieved by speaking to babies in another language, the ease with which children learn it is directly related to the age at which they begin to do so. Several studies have pointed out that, in the first years of childhood, certain areas of the brain are fundamental in linguistic learning.
The importance of age to learn languages
Children, from the time they are born until they reach the age of seven, have a great facility to learn a second language. However, after that age, learning another language will be increasingly difficult, and their capacity for assimilation will gradually diminish and much more quickly once puberty arrives.
The foundations of a mother tongue are created before the first year of life. Thus, after six months, babies begin to absorb the sounds they hear around them, listening carefully to adults and recording the sounds they utter. During the next two months, your brain will record them and with that you will create the bases for your social, emotional and cognitive development.
However, after 8 months, the baby, in an unconscious way, will discard all those sounds that do not belong to his mother tongue, that is, all those sounds he is not used to hearing. This register of sounds will allow him, from then on, to distinguish between the sounds of his mother tongue (or of the languages he considers familiar) of those that, from this moment, he will consider foreign languages.
Even if the baby does not speak, learn
The bilingual people, although in their day to day speak a single language, have activated the two languages in their brain. They will always have to carry out a series of processes that will keep both languages active: choose one of the two languages to speak or write and discard the other, avoid that the second language interfere when speaking in the mother tongue, etc. This implies that bilingual people exercise both languages in their brain even if they do not use the second language constantly.
In the same way, the babies that grow up in a bilingual home, although they do not speak yet, can differentiate different languages that they had not heard before and even distinguish them by seeing how they speak without sound, as if they were reading the lips. This means that babies do not need to speak a language to distinguish it and to begin to understand it, but only to listen to it on a daily basis. That is why, when parents start talking to their children since they are babies in a language other than their mother tongue, it becomes the best way to facilitate their learning.
Patricia Núñez de Arenas