Learning a new language is tricky. Not only is it difficult to become competent in a foreign language, but also children can find it stressful when forced to deal with a language barrier. However, with careful planning and an open mind, you can ensure that your child learns a new language and becomes confident enough to communicate in the language of the season – or of the world! Here are some ideas to help you along the way:
1. Speak With Them
The best way to learn a language is by speaking with someone who speaks the language. This is a principle that bears repeating. When you are learning a language, nothing is more vital to your growth than speaking with people who speak the language. There are several apps and websites which can be helpful for this purpose. You can also find volunteers who are willing to help you out and interact with your children on your behalf. Even better, find someone who is natively capable of speaking the language well, and let your children listen as much as possible.
2. Watch And Listen To Television Show
There are certain shows that are perfect for teaching your children a new language. Some of these shows are scripted, while others are not. Regardless, these shows tend to speak the universal language of entertainment – laughter! Regardless of what language you are trying to learn, you can find an episode of an existing show to help you along the way. For example, The Simpsons have become a bit of a linguistic benchmark over the years, and their episodes are littered with speaking parts for the whole family. Of course, you can start with the regular characters and gradually add in more obscure references as you go along. For a more detailed explanation, please see this link in our blog’s content.
3. Start Small
If you are dealing with a particularly anxious child, you may want to start small and extend your efforts slowly. When your children are young, they are much more likely to listen to and absorb new information. One of the simplest ways to introduce a new language is to start with a few simple words and build your way up from there. For example, you can start with “hello” and “please” and eventually add in other words such as “bread”, “milk”, “computer”, and so on.
4. Add In Some Romance
Another way to help your children become comfortable with a new language is to add in some romance. After all, who wouldn’t be a little bit shy around the opposite sex, especially when speaking a new language! Whether you want to surprise your children by proposing in the first episode, or want to gradually ease them into the idea, you can add in some romance and help them get over their shyness in the language. You can also add in some flirting and make it a competition to see who can score the most points with the opposite sex – parents included!
5. Use Easy, Relevant Examples
Speaking of romance, one of the best ways to ease your children into the idea of speaking a new language is to use easy, relevant examples. One of the best ways to do this is to use real-life examples from your own experience. For example, if you want to learn French, you can say “I went to France last year and had a great time. The food was amazing, the wine was exceptional, and the women were breathtaking!” Your children will relate to this as they are starting to learn French – especially if you also add that some of the food was frozen and had a Chinese restaurant’s written all over it! Letting your children discover new foods and new ways of talking will help them become more familiar with the language and boost their confidence. Similarly, you can use this method to teach your children any language – the better their brains are stimulated, the better the chances of them retaining the information.
6. Provide Supportive Context
Speaking of supporting the brain, one of the great things about The Simpsons is that even the most obscure words are defined right next to them on the show’s glossary. If you are dealing with a small child, you may not want to burden them with a massive dictionary. However, for older children who are reading this, the show’s glossary is a great source of support, particularly if you are struggling with a particular word.
7. Use Faux Pas
Even if your children are old enough to read this blog, they may not yet be ready to speak without faux pas. You can help them out by occasionally using the term, and even teaching them how to say it correctly. Even better, you can take this a step further and provide them with a list of words and sentences which they can use incorrectly. For example, if you want to learn French, you can start by saying “bonjour” when you greet someone. However, you can also say “au revoir” as a goodbye which literally translates to “goodbye”. Knowing when not to use a particular word or phrase can help anyone improve their language skills – even if it’s just one word!
8. Solve Problems Together
Another way to help your children become more comfortable with a language is to help them solve problems together. Whether you are having trouble with a particular word or phrase, or simply want to improve your children’s language skills, you can work together to solve the problem. You can start by having simple conversations about the topic, and eventually work your way up to more complicated conversations. For instance, if you want to learn French, you can start by saying “can you teach me how to say ‘hello’ in French”. With your help, your children will eventually learn to say “bonjour” and “au revoir”, regardless of whether they want to speak French or not!
9. Find A Buddy
Learning a new language is difficult enough without having to go it alone. One of the best ways to help your children get over their initial reluctance to speak a new language is to find a buddy who is also working on learning French. If you can find someone who is natively adept in the language, even better! Your children will benefit from someone helping them out, and you will benefit as well, by being able to practice your newly acquired language skills with someone.
10. Use Technology
Finally, we come to the topic of technology. If you are dealing with a small child who is anxious around new people or new environments, you can help them settle down by showing them pictures of friends on your smartphone. This will make your children more comfortable around new people and situations. Similarly, if you are unable to go to French class with your children, or would just like to help them improve their learning, you can record yourself speaking and playing back the audio. Even better, you can use a program such as Memrise that allows you to create flashcards for your children to view and remind them of the information you’re trying to teach them. No matter what your method – whether you’re using apps, podcasts, or simply speaking with your children – remember to be creative, and don’t be afraid to change up the way you’re used to teaching them languages!