Do you want your kids to understand the writings on this wall?
For native English speakers, knowing someone who’s bilingual is like finding a rare Pokémon. There’s not just a lot of them, aren’t there? We can make it more common by introducing our children to new languages. The earlier, the better. Kids exert much more effort to learn, and these few years should be taken as an opportunity to learn.
If you want your kid to belong to the next generation of bilinguals, here are some ways you can use their natural interests to make them fascinated with learning new languages:
1. Introduce them to their lineage
For this to work, they need to have ancestors belonging to a non-English speaking group. Your kid can be part German, for example. But if all your traceable ancestors speak English, look for someone outside the family that your kid loves.
Tell them stories about their grandparents lived in Germany all those years ago. It doesn’t have to be forced too. Let their curious minds do the magic. For as long as you’ve given them many opportunities to imagine a place and time they’re not in, they’d get interested.
The next thing you know, they’re searching for online German tutors on different tutorial services sites like Preply.
2. Let them watch cartoons that speak another language
With everything you have on your plate, you probably don’t have enough time to focus on making sure your kid learns another language. Since they watch TV all the time, why don’t you use that to your advantage?
Anyone who’s ever had a toddler knows Dora the Explorer. Toddlers follow all her little adventures, and even pick up a word here and there once in a while. Because they’ve already associated Spanish with a lovable character, you won’t have a hard time convincing your little ones to give it a try.
If anything, they may even beg you to do it.
3. Use their love of adventure
If you have kids who love to travel, you can easily introduce them to basic, conversational sentences that they’d need when interacting with the locals.
If you’ve been following our family’s little adventures, you know that we went to Disneyland Paris a year ago. It was an extraordinary experience especially for the kids, but what really excited me was that it gave me the opportunity to introduce them (and myself) to a few French phrases they could use.
That sure didn’t turn them into a bunch of Francophone overnight, but at least they got interested in new stuff.
Depending on how close your kids’ interests are to learning new languages, the time it’d take for them to develop this interest may vary. But here’s a question you’re probably asking right now…
Why bother getting them interested a foreign language this early?
Childhood is a critical period for all kinds of learning. Particularly with a foreign language, their ability to master it diminishes over time according to an article published in Independent. One of the reasons is children are able to exert more effort into new learnings than adults because there are less competing demands.
In one research, it has even been proven that people who started learning a certain language during their childhood are more likely to detect grammar errors compared to those who learned it later in life.
Plus, childhood is also a critical period for building social skills and relationships. This means that their wanting to belong to a certain social group will normally be much higher.
So if someone in your family is bilingual or if they’re always around people who speak other languages, your kids will be more likely to take it as an opportunity to learn something new.
Learning a foreign language actually has a lot of benefits that go beyond just “bragging rights.” It’s a great way to flex those brain muscles and get the brain juices flowing. That’s something that they can use to their advantage all their life! If you want to take this opportunity to expand your children’s horizons, try those three tips. As research has already shown us, it’s never too early, but it can be too late.