Bella Devyatkina, from Moscow, Russia, is a little language superstar.
At just 4 years old, this mini multi-lingual darling was speaking 7 different languages –
English, Spanish, German, French, Chinese, and Arabic – in addition to her native Russian.
And no, Bella wasn’t raised by parents who were fluent in all 7 languages and her mom doesn’t consider her a genius – just a ‘regular’ toddler who happened to love learning new languages.
Be ready to get inspired by little Bella and her mama Yulia! They prove what is possible when you start teaching your child from a young age – even if you don’t speak the language yourself.
Bella started learning when she was just 2 years old
According to Bella’s mum Yulia, a native Russian speaker, the key is to start introducing your child to their new language (or languages) as early as possible.
She introduced English to Bella at just two years old and noticing her interest and ease in which she picked it up, began to introduce more languages.
Bella’s ability to develop multilingual skills from such a young age is echoed by scientific research.
A 2018 language study conducted by the Massachusetts Institute of Technology of more than 670,000 people of different nationalities and ages suggested the best time to learn a new language – if the goal is to reach native-speaking proficiency – is by the age of 10.
So, that old myth that babies and toddlers are too young to learn another language simply isn’t true.
Bella’s mum isn’t a native speaker of all the languages Bella speaks…
It seems Yulia wasn’t intimidated – or limited – by the fact that she herself didn’t actually speak many of the languages Bella learnt.
I think it’s SO important that you hear this mama!
You really, truly don’t need to be a native speaker to teach your kiddo another language. Bella’s mum is a shining example of this fact!
So, how did non-native speaking Yulia do it?
The secret to learning a new language (or 6!) is to make it FUN and use a bunch of different resources!
According to interviews with the little language prodigy’s mum, she enlisted the help of some native speaking tutors in the target language and kept things fun and interesting by mixing up Bella’s lessons.
Some of Bella’s informal lessons were at the zoo, museum, the aquarium and even cooking classes at home.
Yulia has made it clear in many interviews that her focus throughout the experience was for Bella to be having fun – it wasn’t about a mum loading her child up with huge expectations.
“We do not set any ambitious goals for Bella’s future. For us, it’s important that Bella finds a favorite thing in life and does what she really enjoys.” Yulia has been quoted as saying.
Russian neuropsychologist Anna Semenovich has also said of Bella “If the girl is learning languages through curiosity, if her parents managed to build a schedule that works as a game – it will only benefit her. She’s not studying, she’s playing!”
Play! It’s such an incredibly important part of introducing a new language to your little one.
Kids just learn better when they’re actually having fun and playtime can support language learning, help boost their creativity and develop social skills. Just like it did for Bella.
Ps – I’ve got some great tips on how to make the most of playtime for language learning here.
The bottom line? Take advantage of all the language learning resources available to you!
Arm yourself with a whole variety of tools like videos, music, flashcards, games and the help of native speakers – be it in person or recorded lessons. It takes the weight off you feeling like you have to ‘know it all’ while keeping things interesting and fun.
I think little Bella and her mama are super inspiring examples of what is possible with the right resources and a commitment to making it happen – even if you’re not a native speaker.