by Erin Salazar
In today’s world, it is becoming increasingly becoming valuable to be bilingual or at least be able to understand a few key phrases in a second language. Whether your child has a future in the business world or missions, a little bit of foreign language could provide a huge advantage.
Research shows the best time to learn is when they are very young. But if you don’t happen to know a foreign language yourself, how can you teach it to your child? And what if you don’t have a lot of time in which to do it?
Thankfully, there are many ways to help a child learn a second language, and these can be done even if you are a busy parent with little or no foreign language background. With a little intentional planning, you can ensure that your child has the building blocks needed for future success in a foreign language.
If you spend just five minutes before bed every night reading to your child in the target language, that will add up to more than thirty hours of language exposure over the course of a year. In addition to foreign language books, also include books about travel and geography. Reading about how life is different for people in other countries will motivate your child to be more interested in the languages of those countries.
Early exposure to the sounds of the target language can go a long way in helping your child develop a good accent. Play foreign language music in the car or as background music while doing tasks around the house. Don’t worry about actively listening or trying to pick out all the words. Just let it be an enjoyable experience.
Phrase of the Week
Maybe you don’t have a lot of time to sit down with a foreign language course and slog through page after page of worksheets and translations. That’s okay. Young children learn best through real-life situations, not formal study. Take a few minutes to look up how to say a few common phrases in your target language, and write one per week on your calendar to help you remember to use it.
Start with common phrases like “good morning,” “excuse me,” or “time to eat.” Simply use them at the appropriate times throughout the week. Before you know it, you will have a large vocabulary of useful everyday phrases built up, without any drilling or worksheets.
Above all, remember that “slow and steady wins the race.” Put your plan in place and stick with it. In just a few minutes a week, you can open up your child’s mind to other cultures and pave the way for future language-learning success.
While searching for books to enrich my children’s language-learning experiences, I found it not easy to find books for young children who are beginning to learn a foreign language. Most of the books I found were either too complex or aimed at an audience older than my little ones. I finally decided to start writing the books I felt my kids, and others like them, really needed.
My new series, Pix the Panda’s World Tour, is designed to gradually introduce children to geography, culture, and history. As the series progresses there will be a gradually increasing amount of foreign language included. Check out Pix Goes to London, the first book in Pix the Panda’s World Tour, to find out how a cartoon panda can introduce your child to the world.