Contemporary Psycholinguist Frank Smith once said “One Language sets you in a corridor for life. Two languages open every door along the way.”
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Most people acknowledge that Learning a Foreign Language is very important and wouldn’t it be great if we could help the next generation learn languages that will be valuable in the near future; languages that could help them in a competitive global job market, like Chinese for example.
But what if we ourselves don’t speak a foreign language, is it really possible to teach our kids one?
Well the good news is you can! Below are 4 great methods that you can use to help your kids learn any language, even when you don’t speak it yourself.
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Step 1. Language Exercise 15 min.
Likely if your child is in a FL (Foreign Language) class he’s been given a book and some type of audio-visual material. Almost all books teaching a foreign language use a similar teaching method. Students are given vocabulary to memorize. And usually there are conversations or dialogue to model the vocabulary.
To help him memorize vocabulary try this. Use a light object such as a small ball, balloon or scarf. Try juggling with a few scarves or bouncing a balloon off an elbow or knee while saying a vocab word. While he’s juggling scarves have him say a vocabulary word every time he catches and throws the scarf. Or try having him bounce a balloon off his elbow as he repeats a vocab word.
The child can do this by himself with a scarf or balloon or he can practice saying the words with a partner (parent) by tossing a ball back and forth while repeating the vocabulary.
This type of light exercise stimulates the brain and will aid in vocabulary retention. Plus it’s fun too! Children never object to learning like this.
Step 2. Acting/Gestures 15 min.
Now, how to practice the dialogue? Instead of reading and repeating the dialogue from the book have him act out the dialogue instead. For example. Suppose the dialogue goes like this:
B: Hi. How are you?
A: I’m fine, thanks! How are you?
B: I’m great! Thank you!
Now how could you act it out?
A: Hello (Big Wave)
B: Hi. How are you? (Another Big Wave, then gesture to partner and do thumbs up and then thumbs down)
A: I’m fine, thanks! (Gesture to yourself and give a thumbs up.) How are you? Then Gesture to partner and do thumbs up and then thumbs down)
B: I’m great! Thank you! (another thumbs up, blow a kiss, etc…)
You can decide which gestures to use of course. But make the gestures memorable. Don’t be afraid to make them large and ridiculous. This method works great when learning verbs as you can often think of interesting ways to gesture or act out the verbs.
Remember the more interesting the gestures are the more your child will remember the dialogue and the more fun you and your kids will have learning the new language.
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Step 3. Help him practice what he’s learned. 15 min.
Once your child has memorized some of the dialogue and vocab he will need to start practicing it. Again this works best with a partner.
Each partner should memorize a greeting, the response, and three to five different questions. Each person should then say the greeting, then the response, and then ask a question. Now take turns asking and answering each other questions.
Try to give a different response each time a question is asked of you. This method works great in a group so feel free to involve the entire family. Likely you’ll each be able to think of some interesting responses and questions. Again have fun with this!
Step 4. Help train your child’s ears to hear the new language. 15 min
When I was studying Chinese I attended a Chinese class in a nearby Chinese community. The class was completely in Chinese. The instructor never spoke English. I couldn’t speak the language so of course I understood nothing.
However as I kept going to class from week to week, I began to notice something. In the beginning I couldn’t make out the different sentences being spoken, but in time I could. I still didn’t understand everything being said but the language was no longer static noise to me.
In time I could make out each individual sentence and then later each individual word. As I improved my vocabulary my understanding of the language improved. But I had to listen to the language over and over again even though I couldn’t understand it.
There is no way to skip this important step when learning a language. You must simply go through it. Train you ears to hear the language and in time understanding will follow.
Likely your child’s FL textbook comes with some audio material. But if this material is not stimulating enough feel free to find a movie in the FL that has subtitles. A dubbed English movie will work too.
Alternatively you can use an audio book that’s been transcribed into English. Play the audio and have your child follow along in the transcript. If possible choose about 5 minutes worth of material and pause after each sentence so he can repeat it. Replay the audio. This time have him read along with it and say it out loud.
Well, there you have it; 4 simple methods to help your kids get started in learning a foreign language.
The goal is to be involved with your child as he or she learns a new language. You might also find yourself picking up the new language. That would be great! Have fun with it.
If you’re looking for an affordable language learning program for you or your child, I strongly recommend you try Pimsleur for learning for targeted language phrases or Rosetta Stone for more comprehensive language learning.
Feel free to comment below if you would like to share any other languages tips you know. We would love to hear them.
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