One of the most regular concerns that I hear from mums is that they would love their kids to be exposed to foreign languages. As you know by now, I speak three languages and even though I believe that the best way to learn a language is by immersing yourself in that culture and language, my experience has been that there are other ways you can achieve this.
The key is to start early - the earlier the better! By doing this you are helping your child to become comfortable with the concept of languages. This will help your child to grow up knowing that this is something achievable, instead of harboring that unconscious perception that languages are impossible to learn if you aren’t raised in them. You want to cultivate the love of acquiring other languages, and this is far more important that exposing your child to a language that doesn’t mean anything to them. If you expose them and engage with them in that language, you are halfway there.
How do you go about doing this? Unfortunately, watching TV in a different language isn’t enough. What’s matters is that you give context to the language that you are introducing and get an engaged response. For example, if you want them to learn French but you do not speak French, start (you and your kid) using a language app such as Duolingo (I use this app with my five year-old to learn Chinese). This app is great, and its free so you can use it as many times a day as you want. The idea is that you will be learning together and that will give your child the chance to practice. Also, as a bonus, you and your kid will be learning and growing together.
Another approach is to use a tutor. If you have a budget for this, you can use platform such as Italki where you will find tutors directing Skype or Zoom classes at an affordable price. Because there are no travel costs, you may be pleasantly surprised how affordable this is compared to in-person tutoring, and it is also a good option given the current requirements for social distancing. Interaction with another speaker is a great way to get the feedback needed to start interacting in these languages, which is something you will not get from watching a TV show. And after all - you are learning to communicate, so if you are not communicating with someone then what is the point?
Mobile applications and online tutors should be used as complements, not substitutes. Fill in the spare time between online tutoring with little mobile app exercises to stay focused. Once you have this in place, you can then start to play songs and TV shows in the foreign language, and of course, practicing and talking to each other. YouTube is a great place to find popular children’s TV shows in foreign languages. This will familiarize your child with the cadence and accent of native speakers of the language, and enable them to identify word that will build their vocabulary – when your child starts to recognize the words they know in TV shows it will be a great boost to their confidence!
Give it a try – I would love to hear from you how it goes.
Que te diviertas aprendiendo- Happy learning! 😊