By Afton Nelson for PELP
Introducing young children to a second language has many benefits. Studies have shown that children as young as three will develop better cognitive skills, and prepare themselves for higher academic achievement. Kids also gain a rich cultural experience learning another language and will be better prepared to make societal contributions in the future.
The most effective way to learn a second language is through immersion. However, most of us are unable to pull up roots and move to a foreign country just for the purpose of language education.
Language classes or a language immersion school are practical alternatives, but there are additional things you can do to enhance this education and move it more towards an immersive experience.
Check out this list of ways you can support your bilingual learner when they’re outside of class.
- Have your child teach you something – Explaining reinforces learning. Additionally, you can use the new words or phrases to interact with your child.
- Play games – Name the colors of the cars as you drive through town, or foods as you shop at the grocery store. Check online for other game ideas, or download aps like DuoLingo or FluentU.
- Read books – Ask your child’s teacher for recommendations for age appropriate books you can read together.
- Watch videos – Check your local library for children’s foreign language videos. Choose from children’s shows in the language your child is studying, or informative videos on countries and places where the new language is spoken. Your librarian should have recommendations.
- Switch language preferences – Does your child have a favorite video game? Check the settings and switch to an alternate language if that option is available. It might take some getting used to, but they’ll soon adjust to the new commands and instructions, and their language skills will improve too.
- Attend cultural events – Check online for local cultural events that will expose your child to language, customs, food, and entertainment.
Young children’s brains are perfect for absorbing and learning new languages and the benefits they will enjoy from being bilingual are immense. Enhance their language education and watch their skills improve.Learning a second language is good childhood mind medicine, studies find, Cornell Chronicle, Sept. 7, 2016