Tuesday, April 5, 2022

Teaching Second Language to Young Learners

 Second-Language Learning Process

The language learning process of children from birth to five years old is different from the older children and adults. The older children and adults learn a second language in a different part of the brain which they use to learn their first language (Passe:2013, p.16). In other words, they learn the second language by comparing it with the first language. For example, they recognize words with similar roots and meanings, such as the word revolution in English and revolusi in Indonesian. 

First year - kindergarten students

On the other hand, from birth to five years old (Passe:2013, p.16), children learn the first and the second language in similar ways. They learn through observation, exploration, and play. It means that if they are dual-language learners, they use the same part of the brain to learn both languages. Thus, every object or situation leads them to learn new words and concepts in both languages. This makes children in this age range are very suitable to be led dual-language programs.

Strategies Teaching Second Language to Young Learners

We have known that children from birth to five years old are learning language through observation, exploration, and play. However, they do not pick it up spontaneously because language is a social activity. That’s why they need continual verbal interaction with adults. According to Angele Sancho Passe, adults should do some actions in order for children to be able to learn their first language best (2013, p.55). First, the adult should start to speak shorter and slowly by avoiding saying full sentences. For example, they only need to say “So happy!” which purposes to “You look so happy!” and “Truck!” which purposes to “Yes, you saw a red truck!”.

Second, adults should learn what children know and what interests them by observing and listening to them. This will give opportunities to have interesting object conversations to discuss. Third, when children initiate communication, adults should respond to them. It can be done by copying and commenting on their actions. This purposes to invite children into the conversation, such as imitating their smile while saying something to them.

Next, adults have to treat children as conversational partners by giving them chance to take turns initiating conversation. Adults should avoid being too active in the conversation. For example, after they speak to children, give five to eight seconds for them to think and respond.

Last, adults must give positive feedback in order to build children’s confidence because they know that they have successfully made communication. In short, these kinds of actions can be used to encourage children’s language learning process.


Passe, Angele Sancho. 2013. Dual Language Learners: Strategies for Teaching English. St. Paul: Redleaf Press.

Written by Endang Wahyuni 

Baca juga

Teaching Young Learners
Dual-Language Learners: Indonesian and English


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