I’ve been observing the growing language skills of my 2-going-on-3 year old. I’ve been taking notice of how he has moved from one and two word sentences to expressing more complex ideas like supposed events that will take place in the future.
Watching him acquire the English language has made me reflect on my own second language acquisition of Spanish. Not only is he quite talkative around people he knows well, he also experiments with sounds and sentence structure. He freely talks to me. When he makes a grammatical or pronunciation error, I correct him, and he enthusiastically will repeat the correction.
What my son has is a lack of fear in learning English. He knows that I will not ridicule him for saying something incorrectly. He has confidence in his current abilities, too. This is the key, so I will repeat: he is confident and lacks fear about learning English. We should all be this way when we learn a second language.
It’s interesting to note that my son is resistant to me speaking to him in Spanish. He’ll say, "Oh, mama, don’t say that." or "I don’t like that." He has a basic need to learn English because of his environment. He doesn’t need to know Spanish, and is not really motivated to learn. I can get him to watch Plaza Sésamo with me. But, I think, for my son, that is really the motivation of seeing Elmo, not learning Spanish.
I personally don’t buy into the common notion that as we age, our ability to learn a second language decreases. I have read recommendations on parenting websites that you should start exposing your child to foreign language learning and experiences before age 2 or else the brain will not be capable of acquiring a second language as easily.
One person who has learned multiple languages as an adult, and debunks this theory, is Benny Lewis. He has a wonderful website, Fluent in Three Months, where he tracks his 3 month language missions and travels around the world. If you are interested in learning a second language, or need a confidence boost, Benny is the man to read. I have just downloaded his Language Hacking Guide, and I’m looking forward to reading it this weekend.
With inspirations like Benny, I know it is possible for me to become fluent in Spanish. And I will continue to watch and admire my son as his English proficiency grows, and will model his enthusiasm and confidence as I work towards my own fluency in Spanish..