Learning and Speaking Multiple Languages | La Petite Crèche  


Learning and Speaking Multiple Languages

1. What is Bilingualism?

Being bilingual means using two or more languages to communicate in everyday life.

Bilingualism is either "simultaneous" when the child grows up with parents who speak two different languages, or "successive" when the child learns a foreign language at an early age.

2. The stages of language acquisition

Psycholinguists explain that language acquisition takes place in stages:

From 0 to 1 year

The baby babbles. He is therefore exposed to the first words spoken by his parents.

At birth, children have the innate ability to recognise the sounds of all the languages of the world. Then, gradually, their brain will target the sounds of the languages they hear most regularly.

At the age of 2

A child has a vocabulary of about 50 words.

At the age of 2.5 years

This is a key moment for the child, as he acquires about ten words a day and starts to build the first simple sentences of two words: "Mummy shoes" for "Mummy I want my shoes", for example.

The child will mix and speak both languages until the age of 4. Then, in a natural way, he will use each of the languages he learns to good effect.

From the age of 4

He begins to acquire syntax.

After the age of 7

The child's brain has reached a maturation threshold that no longer allows him to learn a language intuitively.

It is therefore not necessary for the first language to be fully established in order to begin the acquisition of the second. Quite the contrary. The earlier a language is introduced, the easier its assimilation will be. The two languages do not compete for the same space in the brain. For psycholinguists, the second foreign language does not taint the first so-called mother tongue. On the c ontrary, they feed off each other.

The younger a child is exposed to a second language, the faster he or she will be able to learn it. But beware, the sooner he will forget it if he does not use it continuously throughout his childhood.

Emotions, especially when the child is young, are very important in the development of bilingualism. Like learning the mother tongue, if you do not show interest and pleasure in the language, the child will not speak. You learn through example.

3. The benefits of learning a foreign language early

In their research, psycholinguists have found specificities in the development of bilingual children:

  • Their linguistic appetite is generally reinforced very early in their lives.
  • They develop analytical skills. From an early age they perform complex mental gymnastics: translate the statement into their mother tongue and answer it in the requested language.
  • They have a better "metalinguistic" ability to reflect on their language and a better intellectual concentration. Having to concentrate on the choice of words in one language or the other, they have to make more effort to concentrate.
  • Children who learn a second language at an early age have a better communicative sensitivity and are more gifted in their social life. Bilingualism makes it possible to communicate more widely, to a wider range of people and to facilitate the learning of other languages.
  • Tests have shown that their ability to process information will be more immediate.
  • Finally, beyond the pure language aspect, the same tests showed that bilingual children had more creativity.

Some misconceptions

  • The mother tongue is not the mother's language, but the language of education, of the child's instruction.
  • A bilingual child has neither more nor less vocabulary than a monolingual child. It is the distribution of this vocabulary and the type of words acquired that differ.
  • Bilingual children do not show more language delays than monolingual children. However, it is quite common for a child who speaks two languages not to have the same strength in each of them.
  • It is not necessary to have a good mastery of a first language before introducing a second language.

4. Bilingualism at La Petite Crèche

La Petite Crèche offers a bilingual environment in French – English and combines multiple resources conducive to the development and usage of languages.

Songs and nursery rhymes

Singing is a fun and entertaining way to learn and get the best pronunciation and rhythm (prosody) so unique to each language. Repetition allows the child to retain the words.


Album reading in different languages stimulates the language and enriches the lexicon.


Playing games in different languages allows the child to learn while having fun in a spontaneous way and to integrate game rules (and life rules) in other languages. It is by exploring and playing with languages that the child will enjoy learning them.

Thematic Activities

They allow children to make links, connections between different languages.

Simple words combined with gestures

To facilitate communication with the children, the educational team works a lot with words. They are simple, concise and very often repeated to the children so that they can integrate them. Gestures often accompany the words. Sometimes a word is not understood but the gesture that follows it makes it take on its full meaning.


Exchanges and interactions with peers also promote language acquisition. Depending on their age, they help each other a lot without necessarily having an adult intervene. This is why we offer group activities, role-playing games, etc.

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