8 Tips To Help Your Child Learn A Foreign Language Faster
Did you know that learning a foreign language can be incredibly beneficial to your child? Read through these tips to discover how best you can teach him one.
By Ashwin Lobo
“A different language is a different vision of life” – Federico Fellini
In an increasingly globalised world, learning foreign languages has become more important now than ever before. When your child grows up he may have to interact with people from different countries and cultures. While English is commonly acknowledged as the lingua franca of the world, knowing a foreign language will open multiple opportunities for your child and help him form connections with people across the planet.
According to a research, ‘How Many Languages Are There In The World’, by Stephen R Anderson, published by the Linguistic Society Of America (2010) there are 6,909 distinct languages spoken in the world. Of these languages, Mandarin Chinese is the one that is widely spoken. China, being the most populous country in the world, with over 1.3 billion people, has most of its population speaking this language. Spanish is another language spoken by millions, not only in Spain but also across most of South and Central America.
Learning a new language benefits your child in many ways. It enhances his academic performance, stimulates creativity and prevents age-related cognitive decline. According to the study, ‘Delaying the onset of Alzheimer disease: Bilingualism as a form of cognitive reserve’, by Fergus IM Craik, Ellen Bialystok and Morris Freedman, published by AAN Publications (2010), people who knew more than one language reported the onset of the disease much later than those who only knew one language.
Picking up foreign languages also boosts empathy, fosters cross-cultural understanding, makes travelling more fun and helps in better career opportunities. Today, many children go abroad for higher education. So, teaching a foreign language to your child when he is young can impact his college applications in a positive way.
The following tips will help your child learn a foreign language faster:
- Introduce the language early: According to a study titled, ‘Data: A Critical Period for Second Language Acquisition: Evidence from 2/3 Million English Speakers’, by the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in 2018, the cut-off age for gaining fluency in a language is 10 years. Language learning ability declines with age; so, remember to start young when teaching your children a foreign tongue.
- Begin with the fun aspects: Teach your child the names of different colours and animals, and basic rhymes in the new language. Teaching your child words and phrases related to her subject of interest will make her eager to learn the new language.
- Set easy goals: Learning a new language takes time and having high expectations from your little one can make him lose interest in the activity. Set easy goals first, like learning a few words or sentences each day. Always appreciate him when he meets these goals. Turn the learning activity into a game with different levels and reward him every time he reaches a new milestone.
- Use educational technology: Use technology to your advantage by downloading foreign language learning apps and accessing online language learning programmes. This will accelerate your child’s learning and make her screen time more productive.
- Try foreign language media: Another great way to enhance your child’s learning experience is to use the television and other media. Nowadays, most television service providers offer channels in foreign languages. Subscribe to a few, which would be useful for your child. You can even go online to look for options that are free. Watching and listening to these programmes will familiarise your child with the language and keep him interested in learning it.
- Introduce flash cards: These can be very useful tools to facilitate learning. You can write a word or phrase in the foreign language on one side of the card and its English translation on the other. Show your child the word in English and let her guess the translation in the foreign language. By repeatedly doing this exercise you can help her learn multiple words and phrases.
- Teach about foreign culture: Don’t just focus all your efforts on making your child learn the language, but also teach him about the culture of the land where the language is spoken. The language and culture of a place are closely related. Children are naturally curious and will be fascinated to learn about foreign cultures. This will inspire them to pick up the language as well.
- Learn along with your child: When your child sees you learning along with him, it will motivate him. Once you both have learnt enough words in the new language, start conversing in it, as speaking is essential to picking up a new language, rather than simply studying it.
Learning and speaking a foreign language helps break barriers and connect human beings across the world on a deeper level. So, encourage your child in her learning and watch as numerous opportunities come her way to help her personal and professional growth.
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