Yasmine, who comes from Egypt, has just arrived in Germany. Now she has to learn German.

Just like all children who are learning a second language, Yasmine will go through 4 main language stages.

The first language stage is “Home Language Use”. At first, Yasmine may try to speak Arabic even though people around her can’t speak it.

Yasmine: Hi! (in arabic)

This stage doesn’t last long because she soon realises that other people can’t understand her.

The second language stage is the silent period. Yasmine then enters the silent period and doesn’t talk because she is still trying to understand German. She tries to communicate with Andreas by using gestures.

Andreas: Do you want some water? (In German)

Ute: Do you want to play with me? (in German)

Yasmine might try to practice German by herself, but she won’t use it to communicate with Andreas and others. The fact that Yasmine doesn’t speak for a long period of time shouldn’t worry us: she needs time to get to know the new language before she can use it herself.

Christian: Where are you from? (in German)

The silent period usually lasts between 2 and 6 months.

The third stage is called telegraphic speech stage. In this phase Yasmine uses brief ready-made sentences, such as “Happy birthday”.

Yasmine: Happy birthday! (in German)

Andreas: Thanks! (in German)

This is an important stage in second language learning because Yasmine can finally interact with Andreas, her other classmates and teachers.

The final stage is called interlanguage. Yasmine can now communicate in German; she still makes a lot of mistakes, but, eventually, these will disappear.

Yasmine: Me more water? (In German)

As we all know learning a language takes time and effort: it takes between 1 and 3 years of listening to people speaking that language to be able to communicate well with others

…and between 5 and 7 years to reach a language level that allows to learn difficult concepts at school.

Yasmine: Let’s play! (in German)

Andreas: Great idea (in German)

Christian: That`s fun! (in German)

Just be patient and don’t worry: children are very good at picking up a new language!

Even once children have reached a stage where they can easily communicate with others in their second language, continue to give them support over time so that they can gain the language skills needed to study all subjects.

Christian: You’re very good. (in German)

Yasmine’s father: Go on like that, that’s great! (in Arabic)

Yasmine’s mother: We are proud of you! (in Arabic)

Themes: {:en}Promoting Multilingualism in the Family{:}{:it}Promuovere il multilinguismo nella famiglia{:}, Promoting Intercultural Sensitivity, Promoting multilingualism in the classroom, and Promoting Second Language Learning

Resource type: Did you know?

Tags: children, interaction between languages, language learning, learning, and second language

Age range: 7+

Available in: Arabic, Chinese, Czech, Dutch, English, Farsi, Italian, Japanese, Romanian, Russian, Shqip, Sinhalese, Tagalog, Tamil, Turkish, and Ukrainian