The best time to learn a second language is during early childhood, when the brain is like a "sponge," and is more open to learning new words. Children are already used to imitating sounds with great pronunciation, so learning accents comes naturally at this stage. They have no inhibitions and are willing to try out new things too. Language is therefore acquired faster and remembered better at an early age.
Young learners can benefit from learning languages is so many ways. Here are just a few -
- Children become culturally aware at an earlier age, helping to banish stereotypes, encourage tolerance and increase empathy.
- In this digital age, distance is no longer a barrier. Children who learn a language are able to speak to others from all over the world, from the comfort of their own home.
- It's really rewarding to be able to use a language on holidays with the family. Watch that sense of pride as they order their own ice-cream or greet a local!
- Learning another language makes you more aware of your own language. Things like grammar and sentence structure are easier to relate to and understand.
- It keeps your brain active, improves cognitive skills and even build up resistance to the onset of dementia.
- It can boost career opportunities in later life.
With so many benefits (and those are just a few!), why put off starting something that becomes harder to learn later on in life? Why not start to introduce a foreign language at home with these easy to follow tips...
5 Easy Ways to Introduce Languages at Home
1) Learn some simple greetings for different times of the day. For example, guten Morgen (good morning), guten Tag (good day/afternoon), guten Abend (good evening) and gute Nacht (good night).
Use these greetings as a family every day, making sure you each repeat them to each other. Soon it will just be the norm to greet each other this way! Your children could even make a poster with a picture for each greeting, to remind them which one is used at what time of day.
2) Pick a room a week/month and learn the words for objects in that room. For example, die Küche - The kitchen: die Tasse (cup), der Teller (plate), der Kühlschrank (fridge), die Geschirrspülmaschine (dishwasher), der Toaster (you might be able to guess this one!).
Have older children make little flashcards with a picture/word for the item on, and stick it on the item. Post-its also work well for this. For non-readers, point to the object and say the word every time you pass it or use it.
There is nothing wrong with just acquiring vocabulary at this stage. Building sentences can come later if you are both beginners. However, if you are able to, popping these words into context will help learners with their fluency, e.g This is the freezer; put your plate in the dishwasher, etc.
3) Listen to some songs together and try to learn some of the words so you can sing along. Familiar songs are great for this, and YouTube is a fantastic place to start! Many bilingual videos have subtitles so you can begin to learn the vocabulary together.
|My children learning "5 Little Ducks" in German.
4) Read a well known story together in the foreign language. There are so many bilingual or foreign language books available to buy from places like Amazon or Ebay. Start off with a familiar, favourite story that your child already knows, like The Very Hungry Caterpillar. Your little learner will be instantly engaged!
|Some of our favourite stories in German.
5) Watch some well known children shows together! Children's favourites such as Peppa Pig and Paw Patrol can be found on YouTube and are a great way to interest your child.
|Photo credit: Jelleke-Vanooteghem on Unsplash
So there you have it - 5 easy ways to introduce languages at home in a fun and engaging way. They won't cost you much in time, money or resources so you can start learning straight away! There's nothing to stop you from encouraging the next generation of little linguists now, is there?!
Good luck! I'd love to know if you have used any of these ideas in your own home, or if you plan to in the future. Visit our Language Learning Adventure page for lots more multisensory ideas on how to teach languages to children! And remember, children are NEVER too young to start learning a new language!
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Finding joy in the little things: My youngest loves nothing more than watching episodes of Peppa Pig in German and French on the iPad. She has started to pick up some of the words, and even sings along with Frère Jacques during the English episode when Peppa makes a French friend! It makes me smile every time!
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