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Little Kids, Big Questions
is a series of 12 podcasts that translates the research of early childhood development into parenting practices that mothers, fathers and other caregivers can tailor to the needs of their own child and family. Click here to listen to or download the podcasts. This podcast series is generously funded by MetLife Foundation.

I’m thinking about enrolling my 3-year-old in a weekly French class for toddlers. Is one hour of French per week more confusing than beneficial?

Q: I’m thinking about enrolling my 3-year-old in a toddler music class that’s taught in French, just for the exposure to another language. But is one hour of French each week going to be more confusing than beneficial?

A: While it’s not likely to be confusing to your daughter, this class is also not likely to make her fluent in French. To learn two languages at the same time, children must hear them during the course of their daily lives and also have opportunities to use both languages. While a once-a-week class might be a fun introduction to French, and your daughter may even pick up a few words, this type of experience is not likely to make a long-term impact on her language learning skills.

If you are serious about your daughter being exposed to a second language, consider finding a caregiver who speaks French—for example, a babysitter whose native language is French, who could watch your daughter on a regular basis and use only French while at your home. It’s by hearing and speaking a language during the course of their everyday interactions that children learn language.

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