Children start learning as soon as they are born. Their developing brains act as sponges for any kind of knowledge as they gain understanding of the world, their place in it and how to interact with others. Children generally pick up skills easily – as they grow, they naturally move through the stages of development that will take them through to adulthood. Stimulation and encouragement from au pair agency can help them do this more easily, but ultimately, they will learn when they are ready.
Language acquisition is one of the main milestones in any child’s development. A child’s first words are eagerly anticipated by their parents, and remembered forever. Once a child has language, it is easier to interact with them, to guide them and to see their personality developing. Language opens the door to so much other knowledge – the ability to understand songs, stories and history is what makes us who we are and provides us with the cultural references that frame our identities.
Children start learning to speak very early on. From around four months, most babies will be making babbling sounds, which are their first attempt at language. Between the ages of around one and two, they will start to say words, in the beginning as mimicry, but then gaining understanding of their meaning. They continue to increase their vocabulary and learn how combine words into sentences between the ages of around two and five. From six to ten, they slowly learn how to put together more complicated grammatical structures. By the age of ten or eleven, they are generally competent users of language in any situation. Those children that move countries and need to learn a new language, generally do so quickly: for example, the English courses London schools run for newly arrived immigrant children should enable them quickly to take part in mainstream lessons with their native peers.
For children being brought up in a bilingual setting, language learning has particular challenges. Being brought up in a bilingual home can offer a wealth of opportunity to children, but it can cause them problems if not managed well. One parent should always speak to the child in one language, while the other parent speaks in the other. If both speak both, then children can easily get confused. Assuming that one language is the language of the country in which the child lives, and the other is a minority language, then parents should remember to compensate for the lower levels of exposure to the majority language by introducing toys and films in the minority language. Some bilingual children do take longer to master language than others, but once they have, they develop a deep understanding of language that monolingual children do not. The many people who pay each year to take English courses in London colleges would almost certainly love to have been brought up bilingual.