Childhood is the best time to learn a language: young learners, whose brains are growing and flexible, can absorb linguistic information like a sponge. Watch out — if you’re learning a foreign language with a little one, you might get outpaced! But despite children’s natural aptitude for learning languages, they still need to engage with the foreign language on a regular basis in order to maximize speed and efficiency in their language-learning process. Here are some easy ways you can incorporate foreign language practice into your everyday life, and put yourself one step closer to raising a future bilingual world citizen!
1. Label household objects in the target language
A simple yet effective way to learn and memorize new vocabulary is to label everyday objects in your home. Make labels that have the names of furniture, appliances, electronics, and toys in the target language. If you’re really looking to make the vocabulary stick in your brain, consider using a product like FlashSticks, which are professionally-designed, color-coded labels with tons of foreign-language vocabulary items and how to pronounce them.
2. Read foreign-language children’s books together
Children’s books are excellent language-learning tools for several reasons. First, their vocabulary tends to be simple, and thus well-suited for language learners. Second, they include lots of pictures, so you can use illustrations to help you understand the language. Finally, they are a great social experience — by reading together, you’ll both bond with your child and improve your foreign language skills, all at the same time.
3. Schedule language learning into your weekly routine
A sure-fire way to improve language skills is to make a habit out of speaking the language. However, without a plan, it can be hard time find time in the week that you can devote to improving language skills. I suggest that you set aside some time each week where you use only the target language with your child. For instance, dinnertime on Friday could be your chance to speak only in Spanish; similarly, Wednesday afternoon could be your family’s German hour.
4. Watch foreign-language movies together
Movies are a great way to practice a foreign language: they’re entertaining, they contain dialogue the way it’s actually spoken in real life, and they provide ample opportunity for discussion later on. As such, consider watching a foreign-language movie with your child (don’t worry — you can use subtitles!) to learn new vocabulary and practice your comprehension skills. If you don’t know where to start, the internet is full of foreign-language movie suggestions that are especially good for learners.
5. Play language-themed games
It’s no secret that children love to play. And what could be a better way to learn language than to play games? For instance, if you’re learning different English accents, ditch your typical audio activities (boring!) and try your hand at an English accent identification game. There are tons of educational language-learning games and quizzes on websites like Sporcle, so start combining playtime and language-learning time!
6. Be social
It seems obvious: learning language is a social experience — after all, the purpose of language is to communicate! Still, when we’re trying to study a foreign language, it can be easy to forget this. Try to involve others in your language-learning journey: if you’re learning Spanish, go to a Mexican restaurant and attempt to order in Spanish. Consider joining foreign-language meetups where you can practice your skills with other like-minded language learners.
Indeed, it’s not hard to find sneaky ways to get in some extra language practice around the house! These easy-to-implement learning strategies are a great way to get young learners on the fast-track to foreign language fluency. There’s no greater gift you can give your child than bilingualism, and there’s no better time to do it than when they’re young — undoubtedly, your child will thank you later!
This article was originally written by Paul Mains. Paul writes on behalf of Language Trainers, a language tutoring service offering personalized course packages to individuals and groups. Feel free to visit their Facebook page or contact [email protected] with any questions.