“To have another language is to possess a second soul.”
Is it part of your priorities to raise bilingual children? Are you a monolingual parent trying to support your child’s language learning process? I know what you are thinking: Oh no! I can’t help my children as much as I want because I don’t know the language myself… what do I do?
As long as you are able to provide emotional and material aid and have the right attitude and persistence everything will be alright. You only need to process this adventure from a different angle!
Empower yourself with these practical tips and you will be ready to effectively support and connect with your kids in no time!
First you have to lay the foundation for your children to learn a new language and feel supported by you along the way. Don’t forget that it is important to highlight the reasons behind this decision, ask for their opinion and promote motivation in many different ways. We cannot force our kiddos to acquire another language, so things need to be handled with tons of love, communication and assertive but fun resources.
Learn the language yourself!
Does “teaching by example” ring a bell? Learning the language is a great way to work together with your children and develop stronger communication skills at home. Additionally, it is a fool-proof way to improve your resume, exercise your brain and gain confidence while traveling. It sounds like a win-win situation to me.
Invest time and resources!
You don’t need to spend a fortune, check your local library, second hand bookstores, webpages, and Pinterest to look for tools that your children could use at home to work on the communication skills they need to be fluent. Keep in mind that it is necessary to develop four different aspects of communication: oral, listening, writing, and reading. Prepare yourself with the right material.
Connect with people that speaks the target language
This is a great way to get your children practice their new skills with native speakers, and it can be done on a regular basis to keep the input of real-like situations going on. At the end, our children are learning the new language to communicate, and it is through speaking that they will achieve higher fluency levels. Relatives, friends or colleagues that speak the target language are always a safe bet to contact to practice speaking and listening skills. Hiring a tutor is also a great thing to do. Nannies and au pairs are very common in the expat community as well.
Be creative and reach out to other bilingual families!
The idea is to provide children with as much exposure to the language as possible, thing that can be difficult to do when you don’t live in the country where the target language is spoken. However, don’t despair! There are many ways to promote learning of a foreign language. I highly recommend visiting websites from bilingual families and multicultural blogs to get ideas, motivation and support. This is a journey better done with the help of those who already have a little bit more experience than us. I personally like Instagram for quick tips and Pinterest for crafty ideas. Don’t forget YouTube for songs and sing-alongs in the target language.
Put your apron and chef hat on!
One thing I have learnt all these years of teaching Spanish to children and adults is that we need to keep things fun. So what better way to learn vocabulary in the target language than cooking a traditional recipe? Imagine spending time with your children making a delicious dish, learning about the culture and practicing new terminology in a interesting way. You don’t need to know the language for that matter. Simply write down the vocabulary, look for it online so you can listen to the correct pronunciation and voilá!!! You are good to go…. don’t forget to go to the supermarket though, you still need to buy the ingredients.
Additionally, you could plan a special family dinner to enjoy the end results of your cooking and learning process and you can invite relatives and friends to show off your new language skills.
Find a pen-pal for your kids!
Writing and reading are two of the language dexterities that your children will need to develop. Having someone to exchange emails or even snail mail using the target language is a wonderful tool to support their learning journey. Just remember to check well before contacting other people to pen pal. Our children’s safety always comes first.
So what are you waiting for?
There are many ways to promote language learning at home, you just have to dare to leave your comfort zone and make the process effective, entertaining, and stress-free. Parents support is the best thing children could receive and I’m pretty sure you can offer them that! Also forget perfection and learn to speak a foreign language too. Your children can be of great inspiration to you and they could even help you with your pronunciation. They will be delighted to have you on board!
Just remember this will be one of the greatest investments in the future of their careers and it is totally worth it to try! Make it fun!