Language learning in small children and tips on how to do it at home


*Post in collaboration with E.Jones 

It’s nearly the summer holidays, and I have been brainstorming ways to weave education into the fun for Olly’s time off school as well as considering what environment Freddie is being immersed in. Something that I have always dreamt of for my boys is for them to have a second language, starting from as young of an age as possible. Most bilingual children start speaking their first words by the time they are one years old, so the timing is perfect!

Learning foreign languages is so important and is something your children will be thanking you for in years to come, especially as they grow older. When you introduce languages early, you are giving your child the best start with their language learning, as it is easier for them! Since little ones are absorbing so much new information, they’re constantly learning, and still developing their language centre of the brain, introducing a foreign language at a younger age just becomes a part of creating their ‘normal’. The benefits on a child’s brain alone include: learning faster and easier, enhancing creativity, improving problem solving, boosting critical thinking skills and more.

Now we know how important learning a foreign language is. But how do you do it? The best part is that you can do it within the comfort of your home, and your kids will continue onto school where they can continue to advance their skills.

How to teach a foreign language at home

  • Daily phrases: The more that your child uses daily phrases such as ‘good night’, ‘have a good day’, or ‘may I please..’ in a foreign language, the more natural it becomes. So at the start, for daily tasks or phrases where it is natural for your child to understand the context, introduce these phrases and be consistent.
  • Books: Books are wonderful in any case, and especially to aid in developing language skills. Encourage your child to pick out books of his or her choosing, flip through it together, and talk/ask questions about the plot afterwards. This encourages your child to use their imagination and focus on the story rather than think (or overthink) the words they use to describe it.
  • Language learning apps: In today’s digital age, we are lucky to have apps that make many things, such as learning a language, more convenient. You can grant your kids educational technology time and have them hop on to do fun and engaging lessons as often as possible for them! For example using an app like Babbel, your child can learn how to speak French, by completing a gamified lesson on a mobile device whenever they have time, whether it be 10 minutes after lunch or when they’re extra energized in the morning.
  • TV and entertainment: Children’s television shows are available in many languages, and this gives your child the opportunity to learn in a way that doesn’t feel like strict learning. It’s also a helpful way for them to pick up on tone, accents, and when and how to use phrases.
  • Music: Music and dance is a way to incorporate some fun into language learning. You can make up a dance to a song, go over lyrics and even come up with your own song together. It is also helpful to have background music going as your kid plays so they have the consistency of the language in their environment.
  • Pick a task and create a lesson: If your child loves to bake, for example, you could create an entire language lesson around baking. Use sticky notes to label ingredients, appliances, etc. and speak to each other using as many words as possible.

Are you providing this kind of home education for your kids? If so, what have you found helpful?

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