Children are 'sponges'... Is this true?

Jan 12, 2022
Two babies at a languages class

The idea that children are 'sponges' at a young age is really prevalent. Lots of people have said this to me about Babel Babies.

I often hear 'oh great idea to start languages early, children are sponges'.

If we analyse the idea a bit more deeply, however, we can see that it isn't the perfect fit for the REALITY of how children learn a language.

Sponges are just immersed in water and soak it up. Babies might appear to be equally passive, but they are in fact actively listening, processing, storing and later reproducing the sound systems around them, learning the context that is appropriate for each language if they have more than one in their environment, and generating huge numbers (billions) of new synaptic connections as they experience new things.

The sponge idea suggests they just sit there, and the environment does the work, but learning a language is a really active, effortful process.

Children need the right support, time and input to learn a new language.

Some children will get on really well in a brand new language environment, such as starting in a new school with a new language, and others will be really unsure or even actively frightened and need lots more support.

Adults are the same. So let's stop talking about children being sponges, and learn about the PROCESS of language acquisition so that we know where we and our children are on the language-learning journey, and what support we all need to get to the next place on the route.

To try a structured and progressive way of exploring new languages with your little ones that requires no extra resources - simply open & play - try our Children's Languages Adventure. 

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We explore the real science behind how young children learn to speak, along with tips for learning languages with your little people and some awesome FREE languages treats!  

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