Learning a second language from an early age is an invaluable gift that will be useful for your children throughout their whole life. Not only does a second native-level language look good on the CV for every job your child will want to choose, but the benefits also start way before children are old enough to have to worry about applications!
Learning languages while the brain is still developing is beneficial for being able to recognize patterns and structures and will therefore help your child even in subjects that are not necessarily strictly language-related. Additionally, children who grow up bilingually tend to be more compassionate towards others and display a greater tolerance for other cultures as well as openness for new experiences. Employed with the confidence that comes with being able to communicate in two languages, your children will be less likely to shy away from challenges than their monolingual peers.
If you are ready to raise an understanding, intelligent, and curious child, here are seven tips to help you get started:
1) Start As Early As Possible
The earlier you start teaching your child a foreign language, the easier it will be for them to reach a high level of fluency. You might have noticed that it is much harder for you to learn a second language as an adult as it was when you were still in school. This is because the language center of the brain of a child is still developing, so it can more easily incorporate the structure and grammar of a foreign language into its understanding of the world. It is best when you start teaching your child a foreign language at the same time as it starts learning to communicate in its native language. Being raised bilingually has a lot of benefits both with regards to the child’s personality development and its professional success in adulthood.
2) Connect with Native Speakers
If you are fluent in a foreign language yourself, this is of course the ideal starting point for raising your child bilingually. Even if you are not bilingual yourself, there are a lot of ways you can support contact with native speakers. You can hire a foreign nanny or au pair and encourage them to talk to your child in their native language. Other than that, you can invite foreign children and their parents over for playdates or maybe even establish a language learning group with a bunch of families from your child’s kindergarten. In this way, not only will your children learn a new language, but they can also form friendships that can last for a long time.
3) Offer Encouragement and Motivation
Learning a second language requires a lot of motivation, support and patience from parents. Be aware that your child is undergoing highly complex mental processes and do not expect fluency too quickly. Trust in the benefits of praise and encouragement rather than in strict rules and punishment. Children that grow and learn in a supportive and safe atmosphere are proven to not only become more confident people but also better learners when it comes to any subject in school or other activities.
4) Immerse your Child in Media in the Target Language
Present your child with child-oriented books and movies in the language you are teaching. You will notice especially good progress when you use books or movies the children already know to encourage them to immerse themselves in the target language. With a story that your child already is familiar with it will be easier to figure out what is happening. Thus, children can immediately connect with well-loved characters and follow the plot without getting frustrated or confused. It is excellent both for child development and for the connection between parents and children to read books out loud on a regular basis – make it a tradition to incorporate a number of foreign language children’s books into your reading sessions!
It is also always a good idea to play songs in a foreign language – even when they are just background music, your children will subconsciously learn a lot about pronunciation and intonation.
5) Play Games in the Target Language
Children learn best when they are not even aware that they are learning. This is why teaching with the help of games is always a great idea. You can order board games in the target language If your children enjoy board games, you can order them online in different languages, most well-known games have been translated into a variety of languages.
But you do not have to spend a lot of money on games, you can just as easily integrate the second language in your child’s indoor and outdoor games with its friends or siblings – make it a challenge for the children to only use their second language when playing hide and seek, hopscotch, or doing crafts.
6) Utilize Language Learning Software
There is a lot of language learning software on the market that has been developed specifically to help children learn. Virtual games and quizzes will keep your children engaging with content in their target language, which is especially practical for parents that are on a busy schedule and cannot always talk to their children. Because of its often game-like approaches, software like this will have your children forgetting that they are even studying.
7) Look for Outside Resources
More and more parents are discovering the benefits of raising bilingual children, and due to this demand, there are a lot of resources to support you in reaching this goal. Consider sending your child to a bilingual school or kindergarten or letting it join a bilingual extra-curricular activity. A lot of schools offer drama classes in foreign languages, foreign language choirs, or conversation groups.
Once your children have achieved a certain level of fluency, simply speaking their second language at home might not be enough for them. Ynsitu offers access to many quality courses abroad which will help your children learn to work on their language skills, broaden their horizons, and make new experiences.