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When to start second language learning? Although experts have attested that introduction to a second language increases proficiency, studies suggest that the most efficient time to begin to learn a second language is anytime between first grade through middle school.

Stephen Krashen, who introduces some of the most influential concepts to the study of second-language acquisition have been expanded upon since 1977, and he makes the distinction between learning and acquisition. More specifically, learning is the conscious, traditional grammar-based process in the classroom; and acquisition is the process of how we “pick up our first language.”

Krashen further denotes: “Our mistake is trying to teach languages in the same way we teach science, history and mathematics.” Interestingly, Krashen suggests that second language learners should acquire a second language in the same way children learn their first.

Krashen depicts a that there is a bit of magic in the process that both children and adult learners become proficient in a second language.

We Acquire Languages When We Can Understand Messages

Exposure to both interesting and understandable listening and reading material is the secret to developing what Krashen asserts as fundamental and that is comprehensible input. So, basically we acquire languages when we understand messages that stem from meaningful interactions, and not on form. When teachers and parents speak to children the emphasis should be on meaning, rather than the correct use of grammar.

Essentially, if a child talks in fragments and says, ‘Maman oisseau arbre! responding accordingly by saying, ‘Oui, vous avez raison, il y a un oiseau dans l’arbre’ (Yes, you’re right, there is a bird in the tree) responding accordingly rather than by correcting the child’s grammar validates the meaning and increases self-esteem in the communication. If this process is hindered with confusion, then language acquisition may be delayed or discombobulated.

For example, if the adult responds with a level of frustration based with a focus on precision and perfection, and adds unnecessary extraneous comments, then meaning becomes convoluted. It is important that the focus be ultimately on comprehension of the message to produce confident expression, as opposed to perfection in the way something is said.

While it is true that we often are not fond of the manner in which the message is delivered, or the way it is said in a particular moment of expression. Responding accordingly to the truth, in understanding and analysis of the message is important, and in doing so, this will prevent the lingering or teetering of confusion from an adult filtering a response to correct meaning because of a personal “feeling” or interpretation that the child did not speak appropriately, or contextually significant. Teaching is important, in this way, otherwise the latter approach will ultimately disturb a learners zone of proximal development (difference between what they know, do not know, and need to learn) in second language learning.

Getting The Right Level Is Crucial

Second language reading should be at the right level for the learner, so if the learner is in third grade, then the reading and vocabulary level should match. Consequently, leveled e-books are published in many different languages in the Big Universe’s online library. The following e-books are available in a variety of languages, examples include: Albanian, Arabic, Armenian, Chinese, Czech, English (UK), English (US), French, Hungarian, Polish, Romanian, Russian, Serbian, Slovak, Spanish, and Ukrainian and each selection have the reading level posted on the book.

The Silent Period

Language acquisition requires time for processing, both inside and outside the classroom. Children and adults will begin speaking when there is internal motivation, so putting pressure on the learner to speak before they are ready will result in unnecessary anxiety. Moreover, an anxiety-free environment can help learners with comprehensible input.

In an article written by Robert William McCaul in 2016, “…Krashen sums up the idea in a famous documentary on the subject called A child’s guide to learning languages, produced by BBC Horizon in 1983. In the documentary, he says that acquisition is ‘where the action is’…” In other words, an infant mastering a first language, versus an adult learner of a second language happens at different paces, and this success is rooted in the fact that adults have ‘acquired’ rather than ‘learned’ the language.

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