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Learning languages: the earlier the better?


I often hear people saying 'the earlier the better' when it comes to learning languages. But it's a more complex issue that needs some unpacking, rather than a universally applicable statement of fact.

A really important thing to consider when thinking about 'the earlier the better' argument, is what you are measuring.

If it's how long it takes someone to learn a language, then it's actually quicker to start later when cognitive (thinking) skills are more highly developed and you can employ strategies such as reading, and prior knowledge and metalinguistic awareness, to help you learn a new language.

Adults learn more new language in an hour than babies, for example, who take years to make the same progress.

Children who start learning a second language when they start or change school will all finish secondary on a similar level to each other, whether they start in kindergarden or the end of primary school.

The only really measurable difference might be how 'native' they sound,...

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Can toddlers have a conversation?

Do conversations with toddlers work? This is a headline we spotted today. We sometimes get asked why we bother talking to children under 2, because they can’t have a conversation (the implication being they can’t understand).

Well, they can understand! And talking to them, narrating the daily routines of dressing, putting the dishwasher on, or going out, is what helps children learn how words join together in sentences. It’s how they learn to speak for themselves. Songs and stories aside, talking to them as much as possible while you’re together is super important.

They don’t learn just single words: vocabulary by itself isn’t language. They learn how words connect, the grammar, intonation, word’s all about having an actual conversation with your baby!

Going to eat a banana with your little one? Don’t just say “BANANA!” Say, “oh look at the yellow banana in the bowl...shall we eat it?” And even...

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Babel Birthday

child development Sep 12, 2018

On the eve of the Babel Boy's birthday, Cate reflects on how being a part of the little language revolution (whether he wants to or not!) has shaped his outlook as he reaches his 8th year.

When he was born, I didn't know if I was going to speak English or French to my son. I was a French teacher, so it seemed daft not to impart some of my hard-earned linguistic skills to him as I knew that the earlier you started learning how to roll those Rs, the less embarrassment you would experience in bars trying to chat up the opposite sex when you are 20. But I didn't want to confuse him with two languages, and I was SO TIRED as a new mum, and the wavering meant that I mostly spoke English, with a smattering of French when I remembered to try it.

Fast forward to his 1st birthday, when Ruth and I had been planning Babel Babies for six months and finally launched it after I moved to Cheltenham from Glasgow that summer. From then on, the Babel Boy was exposed to all sorts of languages from...

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B&W Book Project

child development Jul 02, 2018

When we saw the Black & White Book Project on instagram was from Bristol, we just had to find out more about these locally-produced books for babies and their educational value from designer Ruth...

Ciao Ruth, we recently spotted you on Instagram and immediately loved the look of your black and white books. Before we grill you about the books, please could you tell us a little bit about you and your family?

We are the Bradford Family: myself, my husband Karl, and our 19-month-old little boy called Teddy. We moved to Bristol at the end of 2017 after living in Singapore for the past 6 years. Teddy was actually born out there but we decided we wanted to be closer to family and friends so he could get to know everyone as he grows up. It’s been a crazy 12 months of learning the parenting ropes, packing up our lives on the other side of the world, finding a new home and launching the business! We never seem to do things by halves that’s for sure!

What prompted you to...

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