Teaching and Learning a Foreign Language

| March 8, 2013 | 18 Comments

small boy with grandfather paintingDo you speak a foreign language? If English is your native tongue, then chances are that you aren’t fluent in a second or third language. If you are, you’re definitely in the minority! Those who live in other countries, though, are often fluent in languages other than the one that they speak natively. There are many advantages to being able to speak foreign languages, from ease of communication in a global market, to the ability to make new friends, to understanding English grammar better. I have always wished that I were fluent in another language, mostly so that I could raise my children to be bilingual! I started learning German as an adult, and I have found that it’s not as difficult as I thought it would be. If you are interested in helping your kids learn a foreign language, here are some tips:

  • If you speak another language, then begin using it when communicating with your kids. If you do this from the time they are babies, your children should grow up fluent in both your other language and English. Studies have shown that if one parent speaks in a foreign language and the other parent in English, the children’s speech might be delayed by a few months as they work to piece together which words go with which language, but it will all even out and they’ll enjoy the benefits of being bilingual.
  • If you and your partner only speak English, try to expose your child to someone else who speaks another language fluently. It might be a grandmother, a nanny or a neighbor. Ask the other person to simply play with your child while speaking in the target language: when kids are little, they’ll simply pick it up, much as they did English! Even older kids benefit from this, as they can hear the language as people actually use it, and not only in the way it’s presented in textbooks.
  • Try to appeal to different learning styles. If your child is older and is taking, for example, a French class in school, supplement it by watching French movies (with or without subtitles in English), listening to French music, streaming French radio stations via the Internet, playing games using French vocabulary words, and using an audio program, such as Pimsleur. Remember that people learn from visual, audio and touch stimulation, so make sure that your child is exposed to the language through her eyes, ears and hands/muscles.
  • Make it a family affair. Learning all together is much more fun, satisfying and effective for your child than for him to learn all by himself. This is particularly true if he’s not able to take lessons in his target language in school. If everyone is learning together, you can have “Italian night” once per week, where you try to only talk in your target language. (Having a native speaker stop by to listen and help you would be a definite advantage — maybe you could trade a home-cooked dinner for language help once per month or so!)
  • Don’t forget to learn about culture! You can’t truly understand a foreign language without knowing something about the culture that it comes from. Visit ethnic restaurants, read books and try to talk to people who hail from the countries where your target language is spoken. Maybe you can even plan a visit!

Are you bilingual? Are your children? Do you have any tips to share in making it easier to learn a foreign language?

Comments (18)

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  1. Sam Dock says:

    I took 3 years of spanish, and Im still not very good about it. Between my minimal vocabulary and Dora though my almost 3 year old does alright 🙂

  2. MADDIE k. says:

    I think with kids the first language they should learn is sign language 😀

  3. Chrystal D says:

    I would love to find someone who could help me learn Russian!

  4. Sandy says:

    My nephew is only 5 and has been learning another language since he was 3. I would love to start learning it so I could know what he’s saying when he speaks in that language!

  5. Anel says:

    I am bilingual and I plan on sharing my first language with my children. Learning a new language opens children up to a new culture, new experiences, thoughts and emotions. I feel that it allows children to feel part of a bigger picture and part of the world.

  6. Ari says:

    Ahh to be that young again! I would love to learn multiple languages. I think it’s a great idea to introduce more than one language to a child at a young age. I think immersion is a great way to learn, but it’s not easily feasible. I think reading books and watching movies could help beside traveling to the country where the language is the origin. Learning basic vocabulary by repetition in the house could be something simple but still help improve the child’s ability to grasp the language.

  7. Charlene says:

    I personally didn’t teach my kids another language but I know people who have. One parent spoke English and the other parent spoke to the kids only in Spanish. The kids grew up speaking both languages fluently.

  8. Ruth Hill says:

    Four years of high school french and I dont remember a thing now because I never used it again.

  9. Donna George says:

    I tried hard to convince my husband that he should speak spanish when our child was born. He refused, and I am not bilingual, so my son missed out. There’s a reason he’s my ex.

  10. Sherry J says:

    Thanks for the post.

  11. Elena says:

    I’m actually trilingual, I know English, French and Russian! I don’t have kids yet, but when I’ll have a secure job and adopt from Russia, my child will learn all three languages! I feel like it really helps stimulate a person’s brain in addition to all of the benefits that you have mentioned. 🙂

  12. md kennedy says:

    My husband speaks 7 languages, his first wife 4 and their 2 daughters: one. So sad! If I had kids of my own I know they’d be speaking at least 3 of my 5 (4 fluent) languages.

  13. Megan Blumenthal says:

    Great info thanks for sharing. It is so much harder too learn the older you get.

  14. Ronald Smith says:

    thanks for the review

  15. Paula V says:

    This is definitely a very good thing to teach young children to speak another language. Can’t go wrong with that.

  16. Widyaning Ambarwati says:

    Learning another languages is very important I think. This way it helps us all broaden our cultural horizon.In most countries people speak at a minimum two languages

  17. Our son knows Spanish & English.

  18. illy junus says:

    I’m billangual, and i tried to teach my son about my native language around 3 years old. Right now, he knows 3 languages so far. Early learning is the method to learn different languages

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