By Franck & Cristina
Photo credit: jules:stonesoup
Learning a new language is a fascinating experience. It can be transformational. Your perceptions about the people, their culture and traditions can change significantly. Instilling the love of learning languages in our children makes the whole experience even stronger.
But how and when do we actually do it? My wife and I both work full-time and raise 2 children. Like all parents we are busy and our plates are full. In the evening, we are tired and a lot is going on during week-ends.
Teaching children a language starts with a few small steps, a few minutes per day. It should not be overwhelming. We are all trying our best. Often, it is difficult for us to spend more than 10 minutes at any given time.
Using everyday activities to teach a language is key. Integrating these habits into our week will generate huge language learning pay-offs. Just like compound interest.
Here are 8 things my wife and I use. Not more than 10 minutes at a time.
- Tip #1: Breakfast tales
Have your son or daughter select her favorite story in the target language and read it to her while having breakfast together.
- Tip #2: Play their favorite sport
If he or she likes soccer and you want your child to learn, for example, Spanish, pretend both of you are the 2 best Spanish soccer players. 5- to 10-minute game. No more.
- Tip #3: Songs on the go
When you drop your kids off at school, listen to two songs in the car in the target language on the way and sing them out loud while driving. Your children will eventually start singing with you.
- Tip #4: Cartoon night
Browse on YouTube and find a 10 minute cartoon to watch together in the language you are teaching or learning together. It could also be a song.
- Tip #5: Shopping day
Go to the corner store near your home to pick up a few things. Take the time to explain in the target language each item that you put into the cart.
- Tip #6: Let’s cook together
Have your children repeat all the names of the vegetables, fruits or other ingredients. Added bonus: not only do they learn a new language, they also take pride in eating what they cooked together with you.
- Tip#7: iPad stories
We allow our children to listen to 2 short stories on iPad on week-ends, in either French or Spanish. During that time I can pay my bills, and still feel that they are developing their comprehension skills.
- Tip #8: Homework sprinkle
I use homework books that my parents sent to me from France, adapted to my children’s age. I started with Elena when she was 2 years old. She is now 7. We do just 1 page of the book from time to time. Not more than 10 minutes. We do the same for Spanish and Chinese.
The goal is to fit these habits into each day of the week, between 5 and 10 minutes at a time. You will get a sense of accomplishment by doing each of them with your children. When you look back over the week, you will feel pretty good.
What are your favorite 10 minute language-learning tips for children?
Franck and Cristina are from France and Spain and now live in New Jersey, USA. Cristina grew up in the Basque Country, in Spain. Her best high school memories come from teaching English to young school children. She learned French when she met Franck. Cristina works for a consumer goods company. Franck grew up in Alsace, France, speaking Alsatian (a German dialect) with his parents and friends and learning French in school. He started learning German in elementary school and English in high school. He came to Boston where he was inspired to learn Spanish when he met his wife Cristina. Elena (7) and Pablo (4) are Franck & Cristina’s children. They live in New Jersey with their parents and speak English, Spanish and French. The whole family is learning Chinese. In order to expose Elena and Pablo to their first Mandarin Chinese words, Franck and Cristina created a free iPhone and iPad app, “Princesses Learn Chinese”. Since then, they also released “Princesses Learn French” and “Princesses Learn Spanish.” You can visit their blog at www.earlylanguages.com