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How Can I Help My Child To Learn A New Language?

Sep 13, 2008
Although your average school language lessons may be ok for teaching your child a certain amount of vocabularly and grammar, it isn't so good for producing a great conversationally fluent speaker. The better idea is to try and integrate your child by helping them make local bilingual friends, or watching foreign speaking TV or reading books.

Here, for you as a parent, are just a few tips that you can utilise in order to help your child to learn a new language:

1. Move to a different country!

2. Reading and watching TV

3. Mix with other nationalities

4. Show them how it's done

5. Make a game out of it

6. Foreign exchange visits

7. Holiday away

8. Get a foreign Au Pair or Nanny

9. Use books, CD-ROMs, videos, on-line courses, etc

10. Private lessons

Moving to another country

You may think this a rather drastic move, but it is, without doubt, the most effective way to make your child bilingual. Once the initial fear and intimidation is put aside, your child will start communicating with the local children and new language skills will develop dramatically. It may be as little as 3 months before the child is able to hold a fluent conversation, although the grammar and stuff will come a bit later).

Read and watch TV

It is exactly what it says. Look for foreign TV channels and encourage your children to watch them. You could make it a bit of a quest, limiting normal TV to 2 hours a day, but no limit on the foreign stuff.

Visit the local newsagent and see if you can pick up any foreign reading material that your child may enjoy, e.g. surfing, snowboarding, horse jumping, French fashion, etc, and offer them a years subscription. Encourage your child to show off their knowledge at school to make them proud of their language skills.

Help them make bilingual friends

In a world that is so diverse, unless you live in the middle of nowhere, you may well have neighbours from different countries. Help and encourage your child to make new friends, particularly other kids that speak the target languages that they want to learn.

If you go to church or another religious community every week, why not go to a foreign speaking one to learn a new language? Try once a month, then go more often. You will probably be invited to take part to some kind of community activity afterwards, an excellent opportunity to practice your own skills, include your child and make new friends.

Lead by example!

Begin at an early age by giving your children the idea that knowing several languages is a sign of excellence; something desirable. Do it yourself and include your child in your home studies so that you learn together. Furthermore, show them that this can be fun and quite easy (and not just a boring lesson at school!), and encourage them all the way.

Keep it fun and challenging

How about an early morning wake up call in a foreign language?! This may sound silly, but you'll be surprised how many words and phrases can be picked up from listening to another country's music.

Give your kids an incentive to learn and to practice. Tell them that you will pay for any foreign language books or movies, which are available in most big towns and cities.

Foreign exchanges

Most high schools/colleges support foreign exchanges. This works by you sending your child to the country of choice, to stay with a family for a number of weeks or months, whilst their child comes and stays with you. It only costs the price of the flight ticket as obviously accommodation is provided, and a little spending money. This way, there are two teenagers who will have a wonderful experience and learn to speak the new languages with great pronunciation.

Take your holidays in the target country

Once your child is learning a language, try to pick holiday destinations that speak this language. Give your child a few months notice that they will be your guide and that the family will rely on them for help whilst away. Don't put too much pressure on though, just gentle motivation.

Hire a foreign Nanny or Au Pair

Hire an Au Pair, Nanny, Housekeeper, etc, that doesn't speak too much English, and encourage her to speak to the children in her own mother tongue. This way, they will learn half the language while playing!

Use videos, books, on-line courses, CD-ROMs, etc.

There are a huge amount of books, cassettes, CD-ROMs, videos, and now on-line childrens language courses too, for language learning nowadays. If you can, buy several and use them jointly. A new CD-ROM can spark interest and curiosity from a child who would otherwise be bored by traditional long-term methods.

Private tuition

For a more formalised way of learning, hire a private teacher for a few hours each week and see your child flourish. Combine this method of teaching with, say, making bilingual friends, and your child is on the road to success!
About the Author
About the Writer: Clare Innes has a series of health, fitness and general lifestyle websites, including one devoted to how to learn a new language . Watch out for more of her lifestyle websites in the 'First For....com' series that is currently under development.
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