Teaching your child to be bilingual is an around the clock job! However, you don’t have to invest in expensive earning materials or programs to make the process easier for your child. Try some of the following tips to make second language learning fun and a little easier for both of you!
1. Partner up!
The best way to show your young child how the second language can be useful or important is to demonstrate this to them. By showing your child that they can communicate through the second language in a way that is meaningful to them, you will automatically motivate them to learn more. Make an effort to consistently relate the 2nd language to their interests, use age appropriate vocabulary and make conversations interesting for them! Use the language to talk about what is immediately present, rather than far off situations or contexts. Simply by being interactive with your child in the language rather than presenting it to them, will make it more real and inviting.
2. Don’t be afraid to change how you talk!
Depending on your child’s age it can be vital to adapt how you talk to them when speaking in the new language. Exaggerating the tone or pitch of your voice, elongating the vowel or consonant sounds in words and even using diminutive language can help to make the language intriguing to your child, as well as help them to learn.
3. Repeat, Repeat, Repeat!
Although it may seem as though your child is not taking in the language, or expressing it themselves, they are actually listening. Children need several occasions to hear new language and language structures before attempting to imitate them. So don’t give up! Repeating words, phrases and utterances over an over can help your child a great deal. Label vocabulary clearly and place verbs and nouns in context in order for them to make sense. Even though you may feel that you are being redundant, your child will eventually pick up on the patterns.
4. Label Objects Around the House
Children will find it easiest to get started in a second language by relating it to the everyday objects they are familiar with. If your child is able to read, use sticky notes or small cards to label objects around the house and encourage your child to read them every time they pass by. You can even use these objects to play a naming game or have your child run and find the one you mention to make reading the new words fun. This will automatically give them control over their learning and make learning to spell and use new vocabulary easier.
5. Guided Use of TV and Movies
Although over reliance on TV and Movies is never a good thing with children, it can be beneficial when used as part of second language learning. It is astounding what kids can actually pick up or learn from the TV these days, so using it as a tool in guided situation can truly support their second language learning. Look for Shows or movies that are age appropriate both for content and range of vocabulary in the second language. Make this into a family activity and talk about what you are seeing in the target language.
6. Play, Play, Play
All children naturally learn from playing, it is how they internalize ideas concepts and language. And no matter what the age of your child, there is always a way to get them interested in playing. Try some of the following ideas in the target language in order to get your child enthralled and involved in their language learning:
- Card games
- Board games
- Dice and Number games
- Dramatic Play
- Arts and Crafts
- Musical Games
- Active and Running games
7. Let the Music take over!
Children generally react well to rhymes, songs, rhythm and music. At the same they are essential tools in second language learning, as they can help your child to learn the sounds, rhythms and nuances of the new language. Take advantage of every opportunity to play songs in the target language and encourage your child to sing along. Teach them funny rhymes, riddles and tongue twisters to really get the new words and sounds flowing. And don’t forget to dance too!
8. Read Books In a Responsive way
When reading books with your child in the new language, try to forget your hidden agenda for a moment. Children can sense when we are trying to push something on them. Relate the book to their interests rather than the new words you want them to learn and even let them take the lead in turning the pages or telling the story themselves. By encouraging your child to explore books and love them in h their own way, you will be encouraging a love of the second language at the same time. The rest will happen
9. Use Realia to catch their Interest!
Even adults learn a second language easier and more effectively, when we can relate it to our everyday lives, situations and the things we are surrounded by. So relating the second language to your child’s interest and situations that they find familiar and important, can be a great way to catch their interest and motivate them to learn. Whether it is creating an ice cream parlor in your kitchen, or pasting family photographs in a album, activities that use real life objects such as magazines, photographs and objects from around the house will make the language come alive!
10. Don’t overcorrect!
We often don’t realize we are doing it, but it can be easy to overcorrect our bilingual children when we want them to succeed in their learning. However, children need to make mistakes in order to learn, it is part of the natural learning process. In addition, it is common for children to mix up colors, numbers or animals when learning language, even in their first language. It is how we learn about language structure. Rather than correcting, focusing on modeling correct use of the language is more effective, as this allows the child the opportunity to assess their own mistakes and self correct them.