Bilingualism and Kids 101: How To Teach a Foreign Language To a Child
Are you interested in teaching your child a second language? If you are, and you’re are already taking steps to ensure that your baby is fluent in at least two languages, you’re doing what is needed to give them a fighting chance in a world that’s becoming increasingly more multicultural. Bilingualism is already a growing demand in today’s world. So, why not give your child an early start!
Kids learning a second language (and mastering it) are likely to reap the rewards of their efforts later on in life. The benefits of bi and multilingualism are numerous, and include:
Improved cognitive skills
An educational advantage
Better employment opportunities
Better overall health
More active social life
Give our recent post a read if you want to learn more about these benefits and the science behind them.
4 Things You Should Do To Introduce Your Child to Bilingualism
Teaching a baby a second language is much easier if the parents are bilingual – if you or your partner are already fluent in a minority language, don’t waste the opportunity to pass it on to your child. However, don’t get discouraged if you’re native-only speakers. There are still ways to better your child’s life and expose them to the richness of a foreign language, picking up a few new things yourself in the process.
To make it easier on you, we’ve jotted down some advice that will help your child learn a foreign language without too much hassle.
The Earlier You Start, The Better
Babies pick up new things incredibly fast, which is something that you can notice just by paying a bit more attention to your toddler in the space of a few days. They grow, their vocabulary grows, and they become more coordinated with each passing day. This ability to quickly learn new things is particularly evident when it comes to new languages. In fact, recent studies have shown that the earlier you start teaching your kid a second language, the more chances they have of becoming completely fluent in it. The cut-off point for achieving that fluency is somewhere around 10 years of age.
Foreign Language Songs Are a Winning Ticket
Babies and toddlers enjoy a good sing along, which is why you should turn to popular nursery rhymes as your go-to teaching tool. In fact, probably the most popular educational games in the Zoolingo app are the 10 English-language nursery rhymes (and we’re continually adding more of them). With them, you can sing to your child, sing with them, or just have the music in the background throughout the day – with time, they will learn the words and start singing along.
Learning a foreign language through songs is very beneficial for babies because they also learn how to position their mouth and tongue to form certain sounds. As we grow older, we lose the ability to learn new sounds necessary to form words in some languages, but that knowledge never fades away if it was picked up early on.
Make Learning Fun & Take Advantage of Emerging Technologies
Babies and toddlers learn fast, but they also have their own processes that you need to crack if you want to speed them up. One of the biggest concerns with teaching them a foreign language is their rather short attention span. As soon as something becomes ‘work’, they lose all interest in it.
This is why it’s essential to make learning fun and interactive. Zoolingo features more than 150 educational games, most of which are available in 16 languages. That means you get access to, essentially, more than 1,000 fun games. There’s simply no way that your kid will get tired of them any time soon, you just have to switch things up a bit every day.
Immersion Is Key
If you are really serious about your child learning a foreign language, one of the most important things will be complete immersion. Children learn new things fast, but they forget them even faster. Immersing them in an activity from day one means that they will practice it continually, without losing momentum through frequent breaks.
The study we already referred confirms that immersion is as important for learning a second language (if not more important) than starting early. Younger study participants who practiced their target language every day grew up to become nearly native speakers, although they’ve had a slightly later start.
This is easier to do if you or your partner speak a foreign language yourselves. The OPOL method (One Parent, One Language) is a very popular immersion tactic. A child might struggle with picking up both languages in the beginning but, after the initial hurdles (and with continuous work), they will start making considerable progress.
What NOT To Do When Teaching Your Kid A Foreign Language
As much as it’s important to know what to do, it’s also important to know what NOT to do when your toddler starts learning a second language. Here are some common mistakes that parents make, which you would do well to avoid:
- Expecting fast results. Nothing worthwhile happens overnight. Once you start practicing a foreign language with your kid, expect them to move slowly. There’s nothing wrong with that, as long as you can see actual results over time.
- Losing momentum. We already talked about immersion and why it’s important. Losing momentum means that your kid will forget things that they’ve already learned. When that happens, they are just one step away from losing interest, which often proves quite detrimental to your efforts.
- Correcting all the time. A gentle nudge in the right direction is fine, but if you correct your kid’s every other word, they will become self-conscious and unwilling to practice. Let some mistakes slide, especially the minor ones – they will learn to correct those themselves given some time.
Be Persistent, Make Learning Fun, And You Will See Results
As you can see, the answer to the question of how to teach a foreign language to a child is not that difficult. It all boils down to making learning fun and consistent, and not faltering at the first sign of trouble. Your child will have their good days and their bad days, so it’s up to you to create a routine for them and to stick to it.
The Zoolingo app can help with that because it’s engaging, easy to use, and makes learning fun. Actually, your child might not even notice that they are picking up new foreign language words through play. In addition to practicing a second language, they will also be expanding their native language vocabulary, learning numbers, shapes, and more. Download Zoolingo educational app today and test drive it with our free trial before making a final decision!
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