Help your Child Learn a New Language?
There are not that many children who manage to learn a language at school and who eventually become fluent, no matter how long they studied it. There are, however, many kids who were able to learn a new language on their own within a couple of years, simply by reading, watching TV, and mixing with speakers of that language
Parents can play a huge role in helping their kids to learn languages, so here are just a few ideas:
1. Move to a different country!
2. Read and watch TV
3. Help them make bilingual friends
4. Lead by example
5. Keep it fun and challenging
6. Foreign exchanges
7. Vacation abroad
8. Get a foreign Au Pair or Nanny
9. Use books, CD-ROM’s, Video’s, online courses
10. Private tuition
Moving to another country
Ok, this may be a bit extreme but it is certainly THE singularly most effective way for your child to become fluent in a new language. Kids up to their mid-teens just soak up new languages like sponges. The initial transition period may be somewhat daunting, but they soon make new friends and their language skills just rocket. When a child is surrounded by foreign speaking people, at school, for example, you can expect your child to be conversationally bilingual within 3 months or so (although grammar etc, will take rather longer).
Read and watch TV
Fairly self-explanatory; find TV channels in foreign languages. Encourage your kids to watch TV, in say, Spanish. You can also make some rules, maybe like no more than 2 hours of TV per day, except for foreign language channels which they can watch as much as they want to.
Find a foreign magazine or newspaper that suits your child’s tastes (snowboarding, surfing, Italian art, French fashion, Russian chess…) and offer them a year of subscription. Make him want to show it off at school (not very moral, but you want him to be proud of his language learning, don’t you?).
Help them make bilingual friends
Unless you live in Siberia, you probably have people of many different nationalities living around you. Encourage your kids to befriend children bilingually in their target language, or who don’t speak your mother tongue well. You’ll be amazed at just how quickly children begin to communicate with one another.
If you go to church or another religious community every week, why not go to a foreign-speaking one to learn a new language? Try once a month, then go more often. You will probably be invited to take part in some kind of community activity afterward, an excellent opportunity to practice your own skills, include your child and make new friends.
Lead by example
Begin at an early age by giving your children the idea that knowing several languages is a sign of excellence; something desirable. Do it yourself and include your child in your home studies so that you learn together. Furthermore, show them that this can be fun and quite easy (and not just a boring lesson at school!), and encourage them all the way.
Keep it fun and challenging
Suggest that your child be woken up by the sound of a foreign language radio every morning. These clocks-radios are very cheap nowadays, and this is a great way to make a good start on the day. Even if the radio chatter isn’t much fun, your child could get to like a whole new type of cultural music and learn some new words and phrases along the way.
Have an I-pay-your-foreign-books-and-movies policy with your kids. There are many excellent movies that run in foreign languages in most big cities, and many foreign language bookshops as well. If you pay for those, you give your kids a strong incentive to practice the languages they learn.
Arrange a year abroad for your child, or a few months in the summer at least. This will only cost you the flight ticket, as another child (let’s say, a young Spaniard) will come to your house for the same amount of time. For those who actually did this during their teenage years, this is one of the most meaningful experiences of their youth. And the languages learned early stay forever, and with a much better accent too.
Try to spend holidays in countries speaking your target foreign language. If you don’t speak it at all and your child does, make him feel important several months before you go away, telling him that he’ll be your guide and that the whole family will have to rely on his language skills during the vacations. That should motivate him to learn as much as he can so that he can be proud to use his new skills in front of the rest of the family.
Get a foreign Au Pair or Nanny
Hire an Au Pair, Nanny, Housekeeper, etc, that doesn’t speak too much English, and encourage her to speak to the children in her own mother tongue. This way, they will learn half the language while playing!
Use books, CD-ROM’s, Video’s, online courses
There are a huge amount of books, DVD videos, and now online children’s language courses too, for language learning nowadays. If you can, buy several and use them jointly. A new DVD can spark interest and curiosity from a child who would otherwise be bored by traditional long-term methods.
As I have already said, language teaching in schools is mostly insufficient to really learn a language. If you have the necessary funds available, why don’t you hire a private teacher who can teach one-to-one for a few hours a week? In many areas, this is not too expensive and it’s much more efficient than group learning. Flashcards