8 Methods for Second Language Learning at Home
Riding the subway in New York City often leaves me feeling completely inadequate and probably not for the reason you think.
Last week I took my kids to continue our playground exploration in Central Park. (Did you know there are over 20 playgrounds?!? We're going to play on them all!) On the way home the subway was crowded. We followed the mob into the middle of the train and all clung to one pole as more people squished in around us.
To the right was a young couple chatting in Chinese. My daughter immediately caught on that this was a different language and watched them carefully with round eyes focusing to try and catch a word she could understand.
Behind us was a mom with two small kids. In rapid Spanish, she directed them to sit down, hold on, and stop poking each other as they snuggled into a bench. I smiled because somethings about parenting are truly universal.
Walking around our neighborhood, picking up my kids from school, shopping at the store I regularly hear Chinese, Spanish, Russian, Polish, Yiddish, Arabic and more. I walk along speaking my boring Midwestern lightly accented English.
Truthfully I think it is too late for me. I am horrendous at speaking other languages. 7 years of French without mastering the R and correct throaty sounds taught me that. My kids are another story.
Surrounded by all these languages and loving travel the way we do, I would love for them to learn another language. There are so many benefits to learning another language, including some impressive neurological benefits to being bilingual.
Ideally I would move them to another continent and immerse them for a while in another tongue. We might still do that at some point. For now, my husband is stationed here and we are working with what we have.
I was thrilled to learn that they have a Spanish teacher come to their class once a week in Kindergarten, but I want to support language learning at home as well. But how?
Languages are clearly not my forte (see French evidence above) but surely there are still ways I can help my kids?
Indeed there are!
We have begun implementing some different strategies at home. The ones that are working the best for us at home are below. I also asked some of my expert blogging pals for their suggestions and their ideas are below as well because I know every family is different. What works for us might not for your family - but hopefully you will find something below to add a little language learning into your day.
Affiliate links are included below.
We were also offered a free copy of Language Together in exchange for my honest opinion.
1. Activities for Learning Numbers, Colors and Shapes. Here are some fun activity ideas (which include a FREE printable) from Every Star is Different focus on learning Spanish, but could easily be adapted to learn a different language.
2. Familiar Picture Books on Audio. Our neighborhood is very diverse and the library does a decent job of reflecting that. Not only can you find a lot of books about other cultures and traditions, but there are also books in other languages. In the picture books on CD section there are a lot of familiar books that are offered in English or Spanish. If you don't have this at your library, you can also find some on Amazon. We have listened to Goodnight Moon, Let's Go Walking, and A Bad Case of Stripes.
3. 9 Must Have Free Learning Tools on iPads and Tablets. I was surprised to learn on iGame Mom how many free resources there are for families. Here are a couple more on The Piripiri Lexicon that can work on various foreign languages on and even more apps recommended by Paradise Praises that are broken into specific languages.
4. Homeschool Spanish Programs. If you homeschool (or even if you don't) here are some awesome programs for learning spanish at home that Paradise Praises recommended. This is another one that is geared towards younger kids used by Teach Beside Me. It starts at age 3 and teaches Spanish in a fun way.
5. Watch Cartoons in Another Language. I am constantly amazed at how much my kids pick up just from listening to others and watching things. Here is a list of French cartoons from Kid World Citizen that you can check out online or search youtube for other languages.
6. Language Together Audio Book Series. Every morning during breakfast I read aloud to my kids. Usually just 1 or 2 books and then I play one of these stories from the Spanish Language Together series. We got a free Spanish Set One box from Language Together to try out and we are in love. There are other languages available as well but we went with the one they are learning in school. The language system uses a Spot Color Immersion Method (that you can read more about it here) that speeds up language acquisition. The series has a website that you can go to on your computer or cell phone to play the story. One of my main hesitations about teaching my kids another language is my terrible pronounciation and this helps immensely with this hurdle. The stories are short (2-5 minutes) and read a lot like easy readers. They are also fun and my kids look forward to them every day. Find on Amazon
7. Create a Bilingual Print Rich Environment. Many of these tips on Kid World Citizen apply to learning language in general, but are especially helpful in learning a second language. If another language can be integrated into our lives in meaningful ways then aquisition will come that much easier to kids.
8. More Advice? I was so impressed by this book, Be Bilingual by Annika Bourgogne. This book is full of informative background, clear explanations of methods, and practical how-tos. Bourgogne easily dispels the myths about bilingualism and then launches into the practicalities for setting goals for your family. She uses research, experience, and expert advice to make a complex field accessible for families. Every piece of the first section is fascinating and clearly written and the second part, full of ideas for putting ideas into practice, is at least equally as useful. It lays out practical ideas regardless of your chosen approach and ways to reinforce the minority language. I think it's a must read if you want to raise bilingual children. Find on Amazon
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