I have the full version of the Rosetta cd with many languages.

I understand that young children absorb information like a sponge - so if I wanted to teach my daughter languages which I do not know, is this a good age to start about 30 minutes on Rosetta with her each day?

  • Just out of curiosity: what language were you considering?
    – Koert
    Commented Apr 28, 2011 at 11:19
  • English is our first language, but I was thinking of Japanese and Spanish... Commented Apr 28, 2011 at 11:29
  • Is your goal fluency? functionality? just an introduction to a few things other than English to teach the idea of other languages, cultures and ways of thinking about it? It seems some clarity on the matter would help answerers weigh in more precisely for you. Commented Nov 15, 2012 at 4:02
  • Though it's highly unlikely that a child will learn a language from this alone, a little exposure to the sounds and methods of another culture can only be a good thing in helping them find their way in this large-yet-interconnected world. Commented Nov 15, 2012 at 12:36

6 Answers 6


I'm not familiar with the Rosetta CD you refer to, but there has been a few interesting language questions (here and here) that might help you.

To address your question: It's never too early to expose children to new languages, because they can hear very well right from birth, and the sounds they hear shape their ability to discern the patterns and melodies of the language(s).

... but you have to do it well. I personally don't think that it really works to teach children a language that you don't know yourself - I feel that as a parent and teacher you must be quite fluent for this to work. I hope you'll prove me wrong.

  • Basically, I was planning no doing 30 minutes of the rosetta stone cd with her each day, so learning the languages myself with her at the same time. Don't know if this will work, which is why I posted this quesiton as I find time is very very precious, and I try not to waste too much of it. Commented Apr 28, 2011 at 8:46
  • 5
    I saw a TED talk recently which stated that audio-only is unfortunately not effective at all, and audio with video is nearly as ineffective; the only thing that worked was the presence of an actual human being. See also this blog post about it. Commented Apr 28, 2011 at 9:12
  • So if I was with her repeating the words after the cd program and pointing to the pictures, would that not be the same as having an actual human being present? I've never tought her nursary rhymes for example, but she has managed to learn them all by herself from childrens programs on tv. Commented Apr 28, 2011 at 9:15
  • The researcher I linked to has spent much time on this matter, but I can't answer your question -- just try it? Commented Apr 28, 2011 at 9:32
  • @oshirowanen: I think if you turn it into you and her learning the language together it could be highly meaningful and fun. For her to actually learn the language you would probably have to keep it up until she is much bigger, or she'll forget. But even if you falter after a year or two, the exposure might help her learn languages later. But that is not an expert opinion. :) Commented Apr 28, 2011 at 21:14

Waste of time unless you're speaking it continuously

My little ones are learning both Russian and English. My wife is a native Russian speaker and I'm a native English speaker.

It is very apparent that as far as the children are concerned the primary language is the one that both parents are speaking regularly. Whenever we're speaking in Russian then we get responses in Russian, if only one of us is speaking Russian, then the responses come back in English.

Getting your child to learn a second or further language takes both parents and regular meaningful education, just as it does for the primary language.

Articles that may be of interest

Quoting from "Enhancing learning of children from diverse language backgrounds: Mother tongue-based bilingual or multilingual education in early childhood and early primary school years" page 2:

Studies show that six to eight years of education in a language are necessary to develop the level of literacy and verbal proficiency required for academic achievement in secondary school.

Which appears to imply that 4 hours a week may not be sufficient to create a significant impact.

Further interesting reading on the subject of parental involvement in learning a second language can be found in "Practical approaches to foreign language teaching and learning" by Marta Navarro Coy.

  • Care to back up your assertion with research? I remember reading about a study a few years back that said that children only need 30-60 minutes of exposure with a native speaker a week to lay a foundation for becoming fluent in a language.
    – J.J.
    Commented May 2, 2011 at 4:31
  • @Javid Fair enough - I've added some articles that explore the matter in more detail.
    – Gary
    Commented May 2, 2011 at 19:45
  • @Javid: I think it's very likely that an hour a week is enough to lay the foundation, in terms of developing an "ear" for the language, its melody and sentence patterns. But it won't make the child fluent, by itself. Lots more is needed for that. Commented May 2, 2011 at 20:02
  • I always heard it said [citation needed] that you only need 15 minutes a day to be an expert in anything. Of course, no one ever told me how long you had to keep it up at 15 minutes a day before you became an expert...
    – corsiKa
    Commented May 3, 2011 at 7:47
  • @glowcoder That may be a misquote of 10,000 hours (see Outliers for more information). en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Outliers_%28book%29
    – Gary
    Commented May 3, 2011 at 8:04

In your question, you mentioned "languages". Do you intend to teach her several languages at the same time ?

Children can indeed learn several languages easily, but it helps tremendously if these languages are used for actual communication with people, and it is good practice to have a dedicated language per person.

For example our daughter speaks in English with my wife, in Spanish with my wife's parents and in French with me and my parents. I might speak English or Spanish to my wife or parents-in-law, but I only speak French to my daughter. Young children will not easily realize you are speaking a different language unless the languages are used in different contexts.

Also, as @torbengb mentioned, it is a good idea if the speakers are native. The hardest part of learning a language is recognizing and producing the sounds of the language. Children are particularly good at hearing new sounds and producing them, but then it's much better if they hear them well pronounced.

With our daughter, we've also been using baby sign language (ASL in our case) when she couldn't speak yet, and this has helped as a "glue" between French and English for her, since we both used the same signs while speaking two different languages.

Now learning a new language together with your children can also be seen as a game (so long as they enjoy it), and you can also take advantage of songs to make it more fun and easy. Many lullabies and other children songs exist in lots of languages, and it can be fun to learn them together.


To add another point of view to the existing excellent answers, I'd say one important aspect of 'learning a foreign language' is the very notion that other languages exist. For someone who has only ever known English, a plate is a plate: the leap from there to "this is an object which I call a plate, but others call assiette, etc." is a non-negligible intellectual achievement. If your child only gains that, I think it's probably worth the effort.

However, as others have said, I'd say it's almost 100% that both you and your child are going to completely forget anything you learn if you never actually use it to communicate with anyone.

  • Thanks for pointing out that the goal doesn't have to be fluency! From most of the other comments it is almost as if such an endeavor has to be all or nothing. Two thumbs up and a big ol' +1 Commented Nov 15, 2012 at 4:17

With kids I'd teach them languages only if you can speak them natively and converse around them, my two sons know Mandarin because my wife speaks it around them constantly so they've grown up having the "ear" for the lanuage as well as being talked to in the language. Learning languages for kids is more than just 30 minutes of listening to audio or doing a DVD, I think you need the exposure outside of just the language class. There is a child in my son's school where the parents have their girl go to Chinese and Greek schools, the girl picks up both lanuages but since no one speaks Greek in the family her skill is not as good as her English and Chinese.

If you are really focused on having your child get some exposure I have heard good things about the Muzzy series and I think they do Spanish. I commend the idea of exposure, I find it useful, but with the way you are doing it I don't know how much you will get long term.

  • Muzzy has Spanish, English (both US and UK versions), Italian, German, and French. They have also now added a second program that includes Mandarin and one other language - (Russian?). When you buy the first one, it comes with ALL the languages listed in that first list. Commented Nov 15, 2012 at 3:56

It is true that it is absolutely essential a child have opportunities to hear and use the language for it to be retained - however, many of the answers here seem to focus solely on the development of fluency in a foreign language as the only worthwhile outcome of such an exercise! I really have TWO responses for you.

Using Langugae Programs With Kids and In particular, Rosetta Stone

I am not familiar with a children's Rosetta Stone program but if they have one, I've only ever heard quality comments about their products and would assume these would apply. If you are speaking about already owning the adult program and using that with your child, you may find it irrelevant and dry for your child (although he or she will still learn from it and from watching you use it - even if the lessons are more about learning how to learn than the language itself).

Adult language programs usually begin with travel lingo - how to make hotel reservations and find your way around the city and the like for obvious reasons. This vocabulary simply isn't relevant for the young who would rather know how to ask for a crayon and a cup of milk to go with those cookies. I would personally stick to a program for kids (OR go through the whole program yourself - while your child watches and listens in on occasion and then use what you've learned with your child and in conjunction with Children's books in the language)

We have used the BBC's Muzzy program. Very happily, we live an area where there are a lot of Spanish speakers and though he is not fluent, my husband had Spanish in school and watched the Spanish videos with her. This way, they can use Spanish together. She can do well enough to help her dance teacher translate when necessary. I have not used German in over 15 years, but spoke it as a child. About three months ago, she and I started German with Muzzy together. Now that she is six, the written language computer games have been essential in order to keep her challenged. She also hears Berlitz lessons (that I'm using for myself for review, but she hears me doing and practicing with the disks often).

As for the amount of time, "The Bilingual Edge" says that for a child to become fluent in a second language, language exposure must amount to about 80% of their time when learning a language outside of an environment where they are exposed to it with media, street signs and other speakers around them. If you learn it together, you are not immediately aiming for fluency, but you may want to know that figure so that you can do some extra work to create the richest language environment possible. For example, I have children's books in German left over from when I was a child she now has access to and we have set up a system like what we used to call "pen pals" but it is "Skype pals" with a little German girl we will start regular language dates with in another month or so. The little German girl is learning English so they will take turns alternating the languages used.

The Value in Working Toward Language Aquisition Even When Done Without Native Speakers and in the Home

The opportunity mentioned above with the little German Girl came up because we started German and the opportunity fell in our lap when the mom was doing some graduate studies in the states where we were and found out I had once spoken German fluently - for a child that is (although I'm pretty rusty). Since I provide child-care services in the summers, I was the right candidate to care for her child. Now they are back in Germany, but we have a resource (and friendship) that may not have been available to us had we not already begun our language adventure.

I had similar experience when I began learning American Sign Language. All of a sudden, my brother in law started dating a translated, a new teacher at the school turned up that was deaf (but read lips and had a cochlear implant), AND our new librarian turned out to be deaf. You never know what might happen when you open that door.

My goal with my own little girl is not necessarily fluency, but functionality and at least a laying of the "groundwork". She can eventually choose a language she would like to be fluent in and learn it in whatever way we need to make that happen. Exchange program, Peace Corps, whatever. Whatever language she chooses in the end, because she will have a background in how to learn another language and how different languages have different grammatical structure, idioms etc. It will be easier for her to learn her second language of choice than if it was her first exposure to foreign languages.

To sum it all up - why not give it a shot and see what happens. Even if your child walks away not having retained more than hello, goodbye and thank you, it is not a waste of time to have taken the time and taken advantage of the opportunity to learn some other - unrelated lessons along the way.

Link to Book: The Bilingual Edge

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