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Bilingual & Multilingual Learning: Ages Birth to Three Years Old

Starting at a young age is a perfect way to begin language exploration.

Born to Communicate

Humans are born with the tendency to communicate. Obviously, they aren’t communicating a system of spoken language. Instead, they start with cries, then over time add facial expressions, hand gestures and eventually add words and phrases to their communication.

Absorbent Mind

Dr. Maria Montessori calls the time of development for a child between birth to age six as “The Absorbent Mind.” It is called this because at this point in their lives, children are absorbing everything in their environments and this is when all the synapses in the brain are created.

Sensitivity to Sounds

When pertaining to language, the young child is absorbing all the sounds and flow (such as intonations and rhythms) in the spoken language and is most sensitive to this between 12 to 18 months.

Human Connection

The student is absorbing sounds from human-to-child interactions. For example, simply listening to a video isn’t going to have an effect or at least a nominal effect.

Bilingual or Multilingual

Children at this stage aren’t translating just yet. Words are collected from the environments and put into the same language buckets of words.

So, when they are speaking, children will go to easy access words and can mix together different languages. It is crucial not to correct them at this point, as you don’t want to discourage or frustrate learning—it will correct itself at some point. Remember, language and emotions are located in the same area of the brain and often intertwined. Therefore, being thoughtful in how we use language is very important.

For example, if a child doesn’t feel comfortable, safe or respected in one language it is going to be difficult to get them to learn in that particular language.

Language Rich Environment

Further enrich your child’s language skills by narrating all activities and experiences, singing songs together, or by having conversations with the child. Even if the child isn’t verbal, you can still insert or give the words as needed.

Experiential Learning

Using hands is crucial to learning. Human brains will create more synapsis when hands are used. The more varied experiences a child has, the larger of a vocabulary they will develop.

Here are some videos to help get you started:


Read Alouds



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