We teach our children good manners. We try to put them on the right path because we all want to see them growing up to be strong, intelligent people. Are we forgetting something along the way? As parents, we have a responsibility to expose our children to the diversity of the world. Our planet is so beautiful that we can’t afford to keep them within the limits of our apartments, neighborhoods, cities, and states. We want them to know and understand other cultures. With each foreign language they learn, children become more open-minded.
We can’t expect young kids to have a focused goal of learning a foreign language. Parents need to awaken that interest and keep it alive with a good plan for development. You can sign them up for a course, but you’ll still be responsible for engaging them in the learning process.
We have few tips for parents who want to make their children interested in learning foreign languages.
Start as Early as Possible
Did you know that there is an optimal age to learn a new language? Scientists showed that babies' brains detect the prosodic patterns in speech. By listening to the people around them, six-month-old babies learn about the world that surrounds them. That’s why they're so focused on words. There’s a catch: children have this genius capacity until they turn seven. From then on, there's a systematic decline in their capacity to learn a language. The point is, it's better to encourage your children to start learning a new language at as young an age as possible.
Be the example for your kids to follow. Don't just wait for grade school teachers to do the job. Make a solid effort to learn with your kids from an early age. It doesn’t matter whether you know the foreign language or you register your child in an language course; you should always repeat with them. Of course, if you know the language, it will be easy for you to guide them through the learning process and correct their mistakes. If you don’t, you’ll be learning together. Keep in mind, kids tend to assign great importance to the activities they share with their parents. (Be prepared to have your ego hurt; your child will probably be the better learner.)
You don’t want your child to be studying a language from a dictionary or a grammar book. Children’s books are a much better approach since they tie words to pictures and stories. Also, it will be easy to get kids engaged because they'll naturally identify with the characters. You can translate the words together and continue reading one book after another. You can easily order books in any language through online stores like Amazon, or your local library will likely have a selection of language books.
This is one of those rare times that I'll condone watching cartoons. It doesn’t matter whether you’re trying to teach your child French, Spanish, Hungarian, or Chinese, YouTube is full of cartoons of all languages. Cartoons are great because the characters use simple words and grammar that children can understand. Plus, your child won’t get the impression that you’re forcing them to learn something when they watch a cartoon; they'll enjoy the experience.
Turn the Language Learning Process into a Routine
Don’t wait for your child to show an interest in learning a language. They might want to learn a few words today, but if they aren't exposed to the language regularly, they'll forget all about it within a matter of weeks, if not days. Children don’t have a great attention span, so you have to keep reminding them how fun and important the foreign language is.
Read a few pages of a book, watch a short cartoon in the foreign language, or learn a few words every single day. Do this at the same time everyday, even if it's just for 30 minutes. You need to create a habit out of this experience. With new lessons and repetition on a daily basis, your kids won’t forget the information you expose them to.
Learning foreign languages and understanding other cultures are inseparable. The good news is that language learning is fun for both you and your kids. So start ASAP!