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8 Simple Tips to Help Your Child Learn a Second Language

In today’s worldwide community, your child will likely come in contact with someone who speaks a language other than English. If not right now, it will definitely happen at some time in the future.

Many parents realize that at least understanding a second language, if not actually speaking, is an important part of their child’s education.

But what can you do as a parent to make sure that your child is as comfortable with other languages as possible?

Start Early, Equal Exposure, Supportive Education

Second Language Learning Tip #1

Start early. “Two- and 3-year-olds are not only increasing their vocabularies, they’re starting to recognize the speech patterns they’ve been hearing since birth. The earlier you introduce a second language, the easier it will be for your child to pick up its unique sounds.” (2)

Second Language Learning Tip #2

Provide equal exposure to both languages. This particularly applies to families that are bilingual.

Children who learn two languages simultaneously either from their parents, caregiver or one from their parents and one from an early childhood program may lose vocabulary of the language to which they are less exposed. (1)

Second Language Learning Tip #3

Make sure the education program you select for your child supports second language learning.

Volunteer, Fun Home Language Activities, Home Language Environment

Second Language Learning Tip #4

If you speak more than one language, volunteer your time to your child’s class. Not only will you expose other children to another language, but you can encourage communication in their home language during the day.

Second Language Learning Tip #5

Engage in “fun family-oriented activities that will provide opportunities to converse in the home language, such as reading books, singing songs, or playing games together.” (1)

Second Language Learning Tip #6

Take your child to environments where speaking their native tongue is virtually required, such as family reunions or cultural gatherings.

“The best way for a child to learn to understand a new language is for him to hear people speaking it fluently ... If he’s exposed to conversations, he’ll begin to pick up the sounds and the natural accent.” (2)

Back to Basics, Relax

Second Language Learning Tip #7

Start with bilingual basics. You don’t have to be fluently bilingual to help teach your child a new language.

Just teaching simple words and phrases can go a long way. For example if your child points to a cow, you can tell them the French or Spanish or whatever word for that object.

Second Language Learning Tip #8

Relax. “[A] child won’t learn to speak another language fluently from hearing words, watching videos, or singing songs” (2) so be realistic about your expectations for results.

Exposure to another language in this way can help with comprehension of the language, which will also be very beneficial.

Sources:

  1.  How Children Learn a Second Language. Halgunseth, Linda. Education.com.
  2. Bilingual Babes: Teach Your Child a Second Language. Cohen, Lisa. Parents Magazine. 
  3. Can Preschool Children Be Taught a Second Language? Vos, Jeanette Ed.D. 

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