Raising a multi-lingual child has become the norm these days. While there is no specific time when you should teach your child a new language, it is advisable to teach him/her while they are still young, especially when learning their first language. Linguistic experts provide that it easier for children to learn a new language at a faster rate than adults. Here are some reliable tips you can use when teaching your child a new language (see other parenting tips).
1. Start early
Infants are born with an ability to mimic and comprehend sounds of different languages. However, by 10 months of age, babies tend to reduce the number of these sounds to the sounds that they hear around them frequently. Therefore, if you are planning on teaching a new language to your child, it is advisable to start early preferably within the child’s first year of age/life. It is recommended that you (or the caregiver) speak the new language to your baby often so that the child becomes fully immersed in it.
2. Create a learning environment at home
Creating a learning environment for a new language is great as it makes it easy for the child to get unlimited exposure to the new language, thereby making it easy for them to learn the new language. If your child hears you speaking the new language frequently, it will become easy for them to have a natural accent of the language and pick up the language’s sounds naturally. If the new language you are teaching your child is spoken on television shows, you can consider having the child watch these shows so that he/she gets used to the new language.
3. Use a step by step approach
Learning a new language can be an overwhelming experience for children particularly if they are very young. As such, it is necessary to use a stepwise approach whereby you teach the child one basic of the new language at a time. When using this approach, you should only proceed to the next basic after the child has fully understood and comprehended the current basic you are teaching them. You can start teaching the child simple concepts such as greetings, and names of common items. These are usually the easiest things to learn and go a long way in helping the child understand a new language.
4. Have realistic expectations
You should not expect your child to learn a new language within a few days or even weeks. At times, it even takes months to understand and fluently speak a new language. This is especially if the new language is not related to the language that they are currently speaking. You should have realistic and reasonable expectations when your child is learning a new language by expecting them to learn concepts and basics of the new language with time in a gradual manner.
5. Take the child to a language class
It is not always that your child has a chance to learn a new language at home. There are times when you can’t be able to effectively teach them a new language particularly if you lead a busy life and spend limited time with the baby. There are schools that offer language classes for children from 2 years old and above. These schools are a perfect choice for learning a new language since lessons are offered by native speakers who have a perfect comprehension and understanding of the language.
6. Use repetition while teaching a new language to your child
Children often learn a new language easily through repetition and continuous repetition of the language. Due to this, you should aim to provide your child with active engagement of the new language by expressing yourself in the new language while in the presence of your child. This sparks an interest to learn the new language. It is also good to encourage your child to express him/herself in the new language as much as possible to build their mastery and fluency of the language you are teaching them.
7. Use engaging activities
Children understand new things better when they are taught using engaging activities. When teaching a new language to your child, it is advisable to design cognitive activities that expose your child to the new language as opposed to only relying on effortless repetition. For instance, you can encourage your child to draw pictures of animals and name them in the new language. Ideally, the emphasis for teaching a new language through cognitive activities lies in actively engaging the child as opposed to using less demanding activities.
8. Songs and games
Singing songs and playing games are also quite efficient ways of teaching your child a new language to your child. This is because children love singing and playing games and as such, will find it enjoyable and fun to learn a new language when doing these activities. You can look for simple songs (in the new language) to sing with your child to improve their mastery of the new language.
9. Traveling to foreign places
While this is not always possible especially if you have limited finances, traveling to a foreign place where the new language is the primary language among natives can greatly help. This first hand interaction with the new language and cultures can go a long way in enhancing the understanding and fluency of the new language. Additionally, learning more about new cultures can make it more interesting and engaging to learn the new language.
10. Encourage your child
Learning a new language is not as easy like most people presume it to be. It gets harder if the teacher is not good at teaching the language. Due to this, it is important to encourage your child as a way of uplifting their spirits when they seem to be slow at learning a new language. This motivation is crucial for encouraging them to overcome the hurdles and challenges of learning a new language. You can reward your child with gifts and tokens for progress made in learning a new language.
There are exceedingly great benefits of learning a new language and being able to speak in two or more languages. Some of these benefits include exposure to new cultures, new ideas and flexible thinking. It also enhances your sensitivity to your native language and provides a broader understanding of the world.