What’s the Best Age for Kids To Learn Spanish?
A common question parents of second language learners often have is: When is the best age to learn a new language? Maybe you’re hesitant to start your child while they’re young, or perhaps you’re worried that they’ve missed the window for learning a second language.
When it comes to age and language learning, the general consensus is that the earlier kids start, the better. Younger children are at a critical age when their brains can easily absorb new languages. However, this doesn’t mean older children can’t achieve fluency in a second language.
One of the best languages to learn is Spanish. Not only is it the second most widely spoken language in the world, but it’s also spoken in many countries. Knowing Spanish is guaranteed to open many doors for your child, whether it’s for travel or career opportunities in the future.
Let’s dive a little deeper into what the science says about language learning at all ages and what you can do to set your child up for success as you plan for their bilingual future.
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Can Young Children Learn a New Language?
Absolutely. In fact, children who learn a second language at a young age—roughly up to the age of 7—can achieve the same proficiency level as native speakers. They’re also much more likely to speak their second language with a native-like accent.
This is because young children’s brains are like thirsty sponges at this stage. From birth until the age of 7, their brains are extremely malleable. Every day, they’re soaking up information and sounds while hard-wiring neural connections that help them process, retain, and utilize language.
Benefits of Learning Spanish for Young Children
One of the main benefits of children learning Spanish at a young age is the positive impact it has on their cognitive development. Studies have shown that children who are exposed to multiple languages from a young age have better problem-solving skills, improved memory, and greater ability to focus and pay attention. For example, a study by the University of Washington found that bilingual children as young as 7 months old were better at problem-solving and had more advanced cognitive skills than monolingual children of the same age.
As we get older, our brains lose this kind of flexibility. This makes it harder for older learners to become fluent, but it’s still possible. Most language researchers agree that when it comes to the best age to learn a new language, the earlier you can expose your children, the better.
Mixing Languages: Is It Good or Bad?
But won’t this confuse your young child, as they’re also trying to master their native language?
Not at all. In fact, this is a common misconception about second language acquisition among young children. The research makes it clear that parents don’t need to worry about this.
Research in this area has shown that code-switching, or switching between two or more languages in the same conversation, is a common and accepted way for young people to learn a language. For example, an English-Spanish bilingual child might say, “Quiero jugar outside” (I want to play outside) or “Please give me jugo de naranja” (Please give me orange juice).
Some researchers even associate code-switching with bilingual proficiency, meaning they consider the ability to switch between languages as a marker of a person’s fluency in those languages.
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Can Older Children Learn a New Language?
When is it too late to learn a language? The short answer is “never.”
There is no such thing as a cut-off age for learning a new language. The old saying “you can’t teach an old dog new tricks” simply does not apply here. If you didn’t get the chance to immerse your kids in the Spanish language while they were young, they can still become fluent with your help and some additional resources.
Some researchers believe that although older language learners are not at the critical age for learning a new language, they have certain advantages. Because these students are more cognitively advanced, they can more easily grasp concepts like grammar, specialized vocabulary, and academic language. Their experience in educational settings and general socialization is a big help. Plus, older kids might be especially motivated to watch TV shows in Spanish or consume Spanish-language content on social media platforms.
You might like: Educational TV Shows in Spanish for Kids
Benefits of Learning Spanish for Older Children
Education in Spanish beyond the age of 7 is highly beneficial for children’s academic success. Studies have shown that students who are proficient in a second language tend to perform better on standardized tests and have higher academic achievement overall. According to a study by the Center for Applied Linguistics, students who study a foreign language for at least four years by the end of high school are more likely to be proficient in other subjects such as math, science, and social studies.
Focus on Strategies and Not on Age
Rather than focusing on the when of age and language learning, parents should think critically about the how. Resources such as Spanish lessons with native speakers that focus on meeting students exactly where they are and teaching them in a way that sticks can help your older kids successfully acquire a second language. Just as playing sports and listening to music are great for development at all ages, so is learning a new language.
Ultimately, when it comes to incorporating a second language into your older child’s life, the golden rule is, “Better late than never!”
You might like: How to Teach Your Child Spanish: 11 Easy Strategies
3 Quick Ideas To Help Your Child Learn Spanish
Whether your child is in that prime early window to learn Spanish or they’re about to sign up for their first high school Spanish class, there are several ways for you to support them. Consider these tips, and remember that the best way to help your kids navigate language learning is by doing what feels best for your family.
1. Surround them with Spanish language content
There are so many ways to be creative here and customize learning to your child’s interests. If your kid loves to read, encourage them to read books, magazines, or comics in Spanish. Give Spanish movies or TV shows a try, or head over to Spanish Academy TV for super helpful and engaging YouTube videos. The more your child hears, sees, and interacts with the Spanish language, the more efficiently they’ll acquire it.
Check out these Spanish-language content resources:
- 7 Best Books to Learn Spanish for Kids
- 8 Awesome Spanish Books for Kids in Elementary
- 6 Bilingual Spanish-English Learning Tablets for Kids
2. Interact with native speakers
Consider ways you can expose your kids to native speakers. This could be a Spanish-speaking neighbor with whom your child practices greetings or a pen pal with whom your child exchanges letters. Writing to a pen pal is a fun way for kids to learn Spanish and learn about other cultures.
You might like: 10 Reasons to Learn Language With Native Speakers
3. Spanish classes with kid-friendly teachers
Immersion is vital to language learning, and one of the best ways to provide this to kids is through instructional classes with experienced teachers.
At Homeschool Spanish Academy, we provide learners with live K–12 Spanish instruction from certified, native Spanish-speaking teachers using our top-rated, expert-approved curriculum. This is an excellent way for students to work on their language fluency and communication skills and connect with trustworthy teachers whose passion is to help students achieve learner-specific language goals.
Customize Your Child’s Spanish Learning Journey
When it comes to age and language learning, science tells us that the earlier you start your kids, the better. However, it is still possible for older kids to become proficient and even fluent speakers with the right support and resources.
If you’re interested in giving your kids a leg up on learning Spanish with a native-speaking teacher, consider signing up for our free trial class. Our instructors specialize in providing student-tailored Spanish programs and flexible scheduling to make it easy and convenient for your family.
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“It’s a great way to learn Spanish, from native Spanish speakers in a 1-on-1 environment. It’s been fairly easy to schedule classes around my daughter’s other classes. The best value for us has been ordering multiple classes at a time. All the instructors have been great!”
– Cindy D, Parent of 3
“Getting to know wonderful teachers who care about me and my growth in language and education. Evelyn Gomez and Erick Cacao are two of the most extraordinary people I have ever met, and talking with them in Spanish at the beginning of classes is always so fulfilling and greatly contributes to my happiness, joy, and wellbeing.”
“HSA offers very affordable, quality, one on one classes with a native speaker. My son has greatly benefited from taking classes. We have seen his confidence increase as well as his pronunciation improve, because he learns from a native Spanish speaker. HSA has quick, personal customer service. Our family has been very pleased with our experience so far!”
– Erica P. Parent of 1