If, like me, your vocabulary beyond English extends about as far as “bonjour”, then this article is for you.
While it’s true you won’t personally be able to teach your child a second language, you can at least make a start. And there are more advantages to this than you may think.
Apart from the practical benefits for travel and communication, an exposure to a new language can enhance your child’s understanding of English, inspire cultural curiosity, engender a feeling of pride at their accomplishment and be another way to associate learning with fun.
1. Ways to introduce a second language
1. Counting songs: Picking a language to count to 10 in is a great way to begin. Here are some YouTube videos we love that are fun and simple, starting with French:
2. Apps: The best language apps – for example Mind Snacks – incorporate the fun of video games into the teaching process. You soon forget you are even learning as you become determined to succeed and unlock new levels!
3. DVD Language: Most kids have a few videos they love watching over and over – and know them off by heart. For a bit of fun, why not switch to a different language in the DVD settings and watch as your child hears their familiar dialogue in a whole new way!
4. Bilingual speakers: Encourage anyone you know who speaks another language to teach your child a word or two. Saying hello and goodbye in another language is fun, as is learning a few simple nouns, such as car, pool, house and hat etc.
5. Travel: If you are able, taking your child overseas is a great way to have them practice and learn some foreign language phrases. Even something as simple as your child saying “hello” in a strange language can broaden their horizons – and is good fun.
6. Nursery rhymes: The classic one is ‘Frere Jacques’. This little song is so popular there is a version in numerous languages, but the classic is the French; a version with both French and English can be found here. If you examine the first two lines you will note that they appear in opposite order in each language:
Frere Jacques, frere Jacques,
Dormez-vous ? Dormez-vous ?
Are you sleeping, are you sleeping,
Brother John? Brother John?
The reason for this is to fit the rhythm of the music in each language. You may like to discuss this with your child and see if they can discover the reason for themselves.
7. Google translate: Why not take a passage from another language and paste it into a translator and read the resulting English with your child. It can be amusing to see a literal translation rendered into English – and trying to work out what is actually meant can involve some linguistic detective skills!
Exposure to other languages broadens children’s linguistic horizons and helps them consider their own language in a different light.
And even if they never become anywhere near fluent, one day as they haltingly order a croissant in French in a Parisian cafe they will think back fondly to this time you spent with them!