Giving your children the gift of a second or third language when they are young is one that will enrich their lives in countless ways. Languages open up doors when travelling, for work, when making friends and so much more. It even helps them do better in their own language, focus better, creatively problem solve, learn additional languages with ease and understand other people and cultures better. These three tips will set you on the right path to helping your child acquire the gift of another language.
Expose Your Children to the New Language
One of the most important parts of learning a new language is exposure. Expose your children to the new language as much as possible. If they have a favorite movie or TV show, let them watch it in the target language. Most DVDs and Blu-Ray discs you buy have at least English, French and Spanish options on them. If you are targeting a different language you can source foreign language dubbed films online. If your child is reading, show subtitles on occasion when he is watching foreign language videos.
In addition to TV shows and movies in the target language, find opportunities for your children to hear the language and even use their own knowledge. Scope out authentic ethnic restaurants in your area, where your kids can order using their new language. Take them shopping in markets where the language is spoken or to churches and other locations in your area where they can absorb the language. Just remember that they may be exposed to certain words you don’t necessarily want them to use.
Another excellent tool is to hire a native-speaking babysitter or nanny to speak the foreign language with your children. This is a great way to ensure that your kids will practice speaking the language, instead of just hearing it. You may also want to plan family vacations in areas where your children will get to use their new language skills.
Exposure to the desired language is very important to successfully raising bilingual or even multilingual children. When a child is striving to learn a non-native language, at least 30% of his exposure to language in general should be in that target language, although more is better. Be creative and find as many ways as possible to work the language into your daily routine.
Use Online Language Resources
A quick online search for language websites for kids will provide you with a plethora of options that you can use to help reinforce the second language for your child. Such sites can provide videos, music, stories and interactive activities and games to facilitate learning. All you need is a high speed Internet connection in order to have such useful resources at your fingertips.
Some of the best ones for Spanish include 123TeachMe.com and OnlineFreeSpanish.com, which have interactive games and activities that will help them master reading, writing and pronunciation in Spanish. When it comes to French language learning, some of the best sites for children are UpToTen.com and Justine-et-Sebastien.com. Hello-World.com is an excellent resource for a variety of languages.
Learn the Language with Them
If you know the language you want your children to learn, make a conscious effort to talk speak to them in the language to reinforce it. As much as possible create a situation of immersion for them in order to make language learning faster and more effective. Most children want to emulate their parents. Making the target language the norm will make them more interested in learning it. Just be sure to keep it fun too.
If you cannot speak the language, this is your opportunity to learn. Children need to understand that learning is for a lifetime. If they see you attempting to learn a new language they are more likely to become intrigued and make the effort too. For some kids it may even bring out their competitive side. Unfortunately for you, chances are they will surpass you in language learning with equal amounts of effort.
Helping your child learn a new language is not quick and easy. It requires commitment, consistency, imagination and creativity. With all those ingredients you will succeed in giving your children one of the most valuable gifts you can give them.
Suzanne Turcotte is a mom of two boys, aged 7 and 9, who speak English, French and Spanish. She works as a Content Specialist with the Internet Provider BroadbandBlue.