28 Jun Top 10 Tips for Getting Your Child to Love language learning

In a globalized world, where mobility is facilitated, learning a language is a key skill. Not only does it help when travelling, it is also a great advantage for career prospects abroad. Acquiring a second language enables to develop various mental abilities at any age; however, there are considerable advantages to learning a language sooner rather than later.

From the moment of birth, a child learns a first language in a very natural manner, by recognizing and remembering surrounding noises: firstly sounds, then words and later the ability to form sentences. However, learning a second language cannot be done so naturally as quickly, and a child will generally only learn given no choice, unless in a bi-lingual environment! Little do they know how useful it will be in their teenager and adult life.

An interesting study called Critical Period Effects in Second Language Learning, conducted by Elissa Newport and Jacqueline Johnson, describes how children who immigrated to the United States at an early age obtain better English grammar test scores than children that have moved at an older age. The earlier one starts learning a language, the more proficient one will be in the future.

Benefits of learning a second language at a young age:

Helps develop strong cognitive skills, such as a better concept formation, mental flexibility, multitasking, listening skills and problem solving.

Improves social interaction, by encouraging connection between peers, and helps achieve overall higher academic results

The more languages you learn, the easier it is to learn a new language! Children recognise grammar systems and categorize words more easily, and are simply more confident to try the next language.

Top 10 tips to motivate your child and make them love language learning:

First of all, remember that the golden rule is short and sweet! Better to do ten minute bursts of activity often and in a fun way than expecting them to sit for an hour or more going through written exercises.

Tip #1: Books

Educational researchers have said consistently that reading is the best way to learn and will help achieve academic success; so this must be the top tip. Reading enables the child to see the words and their spelling – helping their visual memory – as well as their position in the sentence (grammar). By reading out loud, they can hear how it is pronounced, which helps the auditory memory.

And if you don’t do it already, reading books offer one-to-one moments, perfect to share real quality time, all while learning.

Tip #2: Television and music

Television shows, movies and music are a great way to learn the target language without even realising, and very relevant for children in particular, as their peer culture centres around exactly this! Many TV programmes they recognise and love to watch can be watched in the new language.

Tip #3: Play games

Games encourage interaction and communication: vocabulary cards, verbal games (I Spy with my little eye…) and rhymes are examples of fun games that will considerably help remembering words and in which context they are used. An element of competition always adds a little extra incentive!

Tip #4: Help them learn through their interests

To attract and retain a child’s attention (or an adult’s for that matter!) and motivate them, always target their interests. Anything your child is passionate about means they will want to talk about: by involving the target language in this, you are half way there already.

Tip #5: Encourage their creativity

Any child cherishes creativity, whether it’s through painting, drawing, singing, clay modelling, making up a story or even dressing up as their favourite character! Involving the second language in creative activities is a great way to make your child practice whilst having fun. Encourage them to talk about different things and build a story with words from the target language; this will considerably enrich their vocabulary.

Tip #6: Socialize

We underestimate the power of a child’s social interaction with their peers: they naturally learn from each other. Get your child to spend time with friends or classmates that speak the language through after school invites.

Tip #7: Visit the places where the language is spoken

Who said a holiday couldn’t be educational? By visiting a country where the target language is spoken, your child will be in direct contact with the language and will pick up words and expressions quickly and easily.

Tip #8: Show support

When a child learns a second language, parents play an important role: an essential rule for making your child love language learning is showing support and encouragement. Tell your child how proud you are even if his progress is slow; positive feedback is the prime motivator. Learn with them and be able to help them when asked.

Tip #9: Surround them with clues

Children often learn through osmosis and are very visual. Put labels on household objects to remind them of the foreign word, put up posters or pictures in your kitchen so they see them every day as they are eating, ask them to make their own flashcards and get them to teach and test you. Have themed booklets in the car so they can learn a few words on the way home from school in five minutes bursts. Surround them with the language!

Tip #10: Have a routine

Having a routine does not mean forcing your child to study the language so many hours a day; it means that to maintain the learning, it is important to include the target language in at least one activity per day: whether it’s through social interaction, a book, a television show or a game.

It may not be easy every day, but by following these practical tips and not giving up, your child will be fluent in no time. And remember that language teachers are also there to encourage and motivate your child. You are not alone!

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