Many parents want to teach their children how to speak another language. Sometimes, it’s because they want the child to know how to communicate within multiple family cultures. Other times, they have the desire to help their children get an advantage in the world. If you’ve been thinking about how to teach your child a second language, there are some tips you can follow to make learning easy and fun.
Start at Infancy
Little children are at a prime time in their lives for becoming bilingual. At their young age, it’s natural for them to constantly increase their vocabularies and they’re consistently evaluating speech patterns they hear. When you start teaching a second language from birth, you make it easier for your child to identify unique sounds and mimic them. Our ability to differentiate the pronunciation of sounds, syllables, and words is the sharpest before we turn 3, and after that, we lose the ability to discern certain sounds - especially if they’re not part of our usual language pattern.
Make Learning Casual and Fun
A great method parents can use to teach their children a second language is allowing exposure to the language in a casual and fun manner. So, no language classes for kiddos. Simply speak the language around your child in a natural accent, or have a friend or family member do it constantly. If you choose languages that are consistently spoken as part of your family or neighborhood culture, it makes learning easier. Perhaps a nanny or au pair can speak the second language, which will encourage your child to mimic the sounds and words.
Try to Teach One Word at a Time
Instead of formal lessons, consider teaching your child on a daily basis that objects and people have 2 names: a name in their native language and one in the language you want to teach. For instance, if you have a cat or dog who lives with you, you can refer to the animal as a chat or chien as well as a cat or dog, if you’re trying to teach French as a second language. Your child will know that the two words mean the identical thing, and after single-word introductions you can begin to introduce phrases.
How to Teach Your Child a Second Language: Maintain Reasonable Expectations
Your child may learn many words and phrases from you instruction at home, and from exposure to friends and family members. But, it’s going to take years of language education and practice with the language to become fluent. As with other things we teach our children, patience is necessary and critical when it comes to how to teach your child a second language. Children learn at a different pace than we sometimes expect and at different paces than their peers, due to many factors. Through your language education experience, keep reasonable expectations given your unique situation.
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