Why and How teach my child a new language

Why and how should I teach my child a new language?

Let’s face it being able to converse in a second language is pretty cool. It is also hugely practical when travelling and a great selling point on your CV. But is that it?

  • Well actually… research has revealed that the impact on the brain is the most fascinating part. It has been proven to boost overall mental agility, creative thought and problem-solving skills.
  • Furthermore, what about the simple fact of teaching your child that there is a big wide world out there? That there are different cultures to uncover and adventures to be had?!
  • “The critical period”. There is some evidence to support the idea of there being a ‘critical period’ between age 0 and 7 when the developing brain is more plastic and able to process additional languages. I would say there is truth in this but that you can start a language at any age. For me, the main driver for starting early is to ensure a positive relationship with language learning from the outset. Spark their curiosity for languages now and you will be amazed how they grasp opportunities to build on this foundation in the future.
  • Starting a language in the early years gives children a head-start before school (where language tuition is still relatively patchy). Let’s face it we are all ambitious for our children’s futures.
  • But mostly, it is quite frankly amazing to see. It never fails to bowl me over when a two or three-year-old of monolingual parents sings a French song to me or follows instructions in French after only a few weeks of learning a new language.
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Let’s bust a couple of myths, shall we?

“Children will mix up languages.”

The human brain was potentially never meant to be monolingual. In fact, it can easily process several languages at once. Bilingual children sometimes mix languages which is actually positive as it shows that the brain is able to flexibly flick from one to the next. Like a cerebral work out.

“My child should master English first.”

Similarly, to the above, starting a second language will not impede the development of the mother tongue. Studies actually show that it increases overall communication and boosts brain development.

How on earth do I begin teaching my toddler or preschooler the foundations of a new language?

Whether you are thinking, “I was never good at languages” or “I am pretty good at languages, but how do you talk to a toddler?” there IS a way for you to start today.

What is important is making it fun and manageable. I can recommend a step-by-step approach which you can easily adapt to your own routine. You will see results quickly – and you will have fun whilst giving your brain a work-out.

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Inside a Mini Languages class in Edinburgh

STEP 1. Identify the moments you have time together

There is always at least one time in the day when you have one-on-one time (or one on two, one on three for larger families).

Bathtime?

One mealtime?

Getting dressed in the morning?

STEP 2: Find songs to sing in your chosen language

Use this one-on-one time to introduce a song. If you can find a song which matches up with the activity you are currently undertaking, i.e. a water related song while you are in the bath, then even better!

At class this is exactly how we get started. We learn a series of carefully selected songs then build on the learning with toys and interaction with an experienced teacher.

If French is your language of choice, I am happy to share some suggestions for you below (feel free to get in touch for Spanish ideas as well):

Build this into your routine and you will both learn all the words in those songs! Effortlessly.

STEP 3: Once you have established these songs into your routine and feel like you are learning them. Take it further.

In class I always share simple activities for keeping up the learning at home. Here are some of them:

  • Talk about the weather in the morning – make some cards from paper plates. Draw pictures on one side and the type of weather on the other. Leave them beside the fruit bowl and choose one and say the weather every morning over your ‘petit déjeuner’ 😉
  • Play restaurants together– role play can be incredibly effective – and fun! Find all the vocabulary you need in this link.
  • Do the Mini French challenge– you’ll learn so much with quick daily activities free to your inbox.

Watch out for the Mini Languages French Facebook group which I am starting soon which will have free activities and videos (email me for info)

Simple steps, when made fun will have lasting effects! Remember the goal at this age is to pique their interest and demystify languages. By the time they start formal education they will be miles ahead and you have given them a positive experience showing them that languages are part of life and fun!

Preschool French Preschool Spanish How do I teach my child a new language

If you are looking for support in a fun welcoming environment where you will see results quickly, join us at Mini French or Mini Spanish. Classes are Edinburgh for age 0 to 8. Or ask your nursery to get in touch with us to start classes there.

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