Foreign language instruction should begin as early as possible. It is easier to learn a language when you are small than after you are grown. Sometimes all it takes is exposing the child to a language.
In Romania, they had what they called “English Kindergartens” that were actually nursery schools where the children played, and the teachers spoke only English to them. I thought it was an excellent idea! I learned French in elementary school, and even though I never studied French grammar, the French I speak will never leave me, and when I open my mouth, I sound like a native speaker. French became the foundation for all the other languages I studied, and I speak 6 languages.
My daughter was speaking English and Romanian both while still a toddler, and it changed her life. I didn’t send her to one of those Romanian kindergartens. We were Americans in Romania, and there was a Romanian man who worked in our garden and a lady who helped with the housework who couldn’t speak English, and my daughter loved to spend her time in the garden. She and the guy in the garden became great friends, and both English and Romanian spouted out of her mouth as if they were both her first languages. She grew up with an understanding of language that others don’t have. She is on the highest level of Korean a foreigner can get, and she also speaks some Japanese. She could run circles around anyone with language, and it began by learning two in the beginning.
When I was in Japan, my school used to send me to a classroom in back of a toy store. There were two year olds who came there with their mothers. It was my job just to read to the kids in English and play with them. I got down in the floor and played cars with the little boys. I played with the dolls with the little girls. I had huge books, and they all sat on their mother’s laps as I read, and they enjoyed it. A lot of countries understand that it is easier for very small children to learn a language than anyone else.
We arrived in Morocco when my youngest brother was 2 years old. He hung out with our gardener. They were inseparable. My brother rode everywhere on the back of Yagoop’s bike. My brother and Yagoop spoke Arabic together, and as my brothers’ kids were growing up here in America, he spoke Arabic to his kids. His time in Morocco influenced the rest of his life. He never studied Arabic. He just spoke it because children learn what they are around, and the younger they are, the easier it is for them to pick it up. As for me, I didn’t study Arabic, but I can still understand some, and I surprise myself at times when I hear it spoken because I do understand. I learned without realizing it.
I knew an elementary school student from Yugoslavia. She was about in 2nd or 3rd grade. Her mother spoke Romanian and English. Her father spoke Yugoslavian and English. They had to speak English at home to communicate because neither knew the other’s first language. Their daughter spoke all three, Romanian, English, and Yugoslavian. She never had a lesson. Her grandmother wanted to learn to speak English, so she kept borrowing children’s books in English for her grand daughter to read to her and explain to her. Children can learn with just exposure because it is so much easier for them than adults, and they have a foundation that puts them far out ahead of everyone else.
I could continue because I have seen what lots of kids do with language, and I say teach them a foreign language as soon as possible. You don’t even have to actually teach a class, just pay attention to them and speak to them in that language. They have a knack adults don’t have.