In my 13 years of teaching experience, nothing has made quite a difference in the learning curve of my students as when the parents are involved in their children’s education. It’s pretty interesting, because many parents are very hands-on with all their children’s school subjects with the exception of language, art and music. (I don’t teach art or music, but I do think they are also crucial to a child’s personal and creative development. In this post, I will only touch on language, but it is not my intention to imply that art or music are any less important.)
Nobody should expect their children, themselves or their students for that matter to be fluent in a language if their only exposure is that weekly 60 minute lesson. Most kids spend much more time than that playing video games or updating their FaceBook pages, yet we are still surprised when students can’t speak after 2 years of classes.
Parents and other family members should take an active interest in their children’s language learning as well. Even a couple minutes a day can make a huge difference in a student’s language growth. For example, when you’re sitting down at dinner time, ask your child “what is this” in that language. If your child is learning Spanish, point to the dinner plate, glass, table or rice and ask “que es esto?”
Photo by Tetra Pak
So many of my younger students’ parents ask me if they should try to speak with their children when their accents are heavy or they don’t have perfect grammar themselves. I always say that a little practice with some mistakes is better than no practice at all. The main goal is to communicate with others in that language. If you can do that at home, chances are, you’ll feel a lot more confident to try speaking with a native speaker. I normally find that people hesitate to speak with native speakers, not because they can’t speak, but because they’re scared.
So what happens when your child is learning a language that you have never studied? You should take this opportunity to study the language from scratch right along with your child. Try some of the following techniques to learn even the basics of the language with your child.
- Hire a private tutor to come work with you and your child
- Check out the many language learning websites for helpful tips, vocabulary lists and pronunciation guides
- Check your community to see if there are language groups you can join
- Make a weekly foreign film movie night
- Label different things around your house and make it a family affair to try to learn more vocabulary
- Celebrate holidays and festivals from that country
- Try a new recipe from that country
- Subscribe to online or paper magazines/newspapers in that language
- Start listening to music from that country and try to sing along
- Write your shopping lists in that language
- Do some research to see if there is a popular game from that country you can play with your family
- Play I Spy in the car (of course in that language)
- Have fun – Everybody’s idea of fun is a little different, so be creative and do something with your family to include your child’s own personal interests, while speaking in that language
Let me know how these techniques work for your family and if you have any other ideas to share!