5 Steps to Teach Your Child a Foreign Language
Learning a second language is becoming more and more popular around the world for good reason. With so many benefits of being bilingual, an increasing amount of parents are trying to give their children the gift of a foreign language. Not all know the best way to go about it though. Bilingual parents have the advantage of being able to teach their child themselves. There are many language strategies to follow for raising bilingual children. However, for parents who don’t have additional language skills teaching your child a foreign language can be a challenge.
Here are 5 steps you can take to teach your child a foreign language:
1.Introduce the language early
The first step to teaching your child a foreign language is to start as soon as possible. Start now, no matter how old your child is. Even babies can learn a foreign language if they are exposed from birth. Many argue that there is a “Critical Period” where a child’s ability to learn a new language diminishes as they get older. It doesn’t mean that older children can’t still learn a foreign language. It may just mean they learn differently, or it may not be as easy. Introducing a language early on will give your child the best chance at mastering a foreign language as they get older.
2.Start teaching the basics
Even if you don’t know the foreign language you are teaching, you can start with the basics. Just hearing the target language can help children get an ear for the different tones.
Learn the colours and shapes together, learn to count together, and sing songs. Label things around the house and practice identifying them.
One the most effective ways to teach your child a foreign language is by listening to music, so have songs playing in the background constantly and after a while your child will be bopping along singing the words.
Engaging in activities that your child loves and make language learning enjoyable. Children learn better when they are having fun. Whether it be playing games, or drawing, take advantage of play time together to introduce new vocabulary and phrases.
3.Take advantage of foreign language resources
When teaching your child a foreign language, resources will be your best friend. Research online for things such as foreign language books, language apps, online language programs, games and activities. Use screen time to your advantage and allow your child to watch their favourite cartoons or tv programs in a foreign language.
You can find an exhaustive list of language resources on Bilingual Kidspot, which includes over 15 languages that will help to teach your child the target language.
4.Seek outside support
Outside support can be very helpful when you don’t speak a second language yourself. Find a language immersion class in your area, or a language class. Lessons from a native speaker in the target language will be a great help, even if you can only manage a couple of times per week.
5.Find opportunities to practice the target language
While language classes, groups, and other study materials will set down a good foundation for language learning, you will need to find ways for your child to actually practice what they have learned. It isn’t enough to simply listen or study words. Children need to use a language to master it.
Hiring and Aupair or bilingual nanny, or even hosting an exchange student are great ways to teach your child a foreign language. Having a native speaker around in a natural environment will help your child learn the language in a natural way and give them plenty of time to practice.
Join social groups with people who speak the language or travel to countries where the language is spoken to give your child more exposure.
Find your child a pen-pal from a foreign country so they can practice their writing skills, and learn about the culture as well as the language.
In other words, find people or situations where you are surrounded by people who speak the language your child is learning. It won’t be easy, and it won’t happen overnight. But teaching your child a foreign language is a gift that can last a lifetime.