Learning a Second Language with Dad – 10 Minutes at a Time

by contributor · 6 comments

 Learning a Second Language with Dad - 10 Minutes at a Time

By Franck & Cristina
Photo credit: Stephen Cochran

There are many dads who are hands-on in giving their children the gift of bilingualism. As one dad told us, “I have great memories of going to German school and learning German on top of English. I would like my daughter to have fond memories of learning another language also.”

One of the great benefits of raising a child with a second language is that it creates a unique bond between a parent and kids.

Here are some tips specifically for us dads to make it as fun as possible for our children to learn a second language.  These tips are obviously not gender specific. They apply perfectly to moms, aunts, uncles and grandparents. These are, however, tips coming from dads that can give ideas to other dads. 

Play your favorite sport

Spend time with the kids teaching the basics of your favorite sport. Doing it in the target language is like having tqo scoops of ice-cream for the price of one. When the learning is combined with play, retention of the vocabulary is faster.

Dig out your old childhood series on YouTube

“Die Biene Maya”, “Oliver y Benji”, “Candy”,… dads like to head to YouTube to dig out cartoons they grew up with in the 70s and 80s. Sharing that excitement is communicative. It will not take long for the kids to ask to see these old cartoons in the second language.

Read books about your hometown

Dads like to talk about their roots and the places where they grew up. I found a cartoon book in French from Jacques Martin called “Strasbourg.” I like it because it is in French and helps me share roots about Alsace in France with Pablo. Pablo likes it because there are cartoons in it, and maybe my voice sounds slightly different when I talk about my roots.

Watch your favorite sport event in the second language

Some dads follow religiously “La Liga” or “Bundesliga” soccer. There are now many online streaming websites that allow to watch your favorite sport event in a second language. Kids can feel the passion when you watch Barcelona or Real Madrid play in Spanish, or Bayern München play in German.

Share your favorite songs with the kids while driving

On week-end mornings going to the bakery to get bread, take your child with you in the car. Put on a CD or an mp3 player with your favorite songs from the 80s. This is a fun way to share a couple of songs in a second language for 10 minutes.

Teach how to cook a childhood dish

Cooking together in a second language is a great way to learn many things: the name of the vegetables and the ingredients, the utensils, the love of good food. Many of us have memories of wonderful smells coming out of the kitchen as we grew up. Cooking involves many senses: touching, listening, seeing, smelling, tasting. Following a recipe and cooking together with the kids in a second language, even for just 10 minutes, creates lasting memories.

And about memories, here is one of my favorite quotes, from a dad:

“One of the best presents a parent can make is the gift of a language.”


Don’t miss some of Franck & Cristina’s other “10 Minutes at a time” posts:
Helping Children Learn a New Language: 10 Minutes at a Time
Technology to Help Children Learn a New Language: 10 Minutes at a Time
Music to Help Children Learn a New Language: 10 Minutes at a Time
Making Homework in a Second Language Fun for Children – 10 Minutes at a Time

Role-Playing in a Second Language – 10 Minutes at a Time

Franck & 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

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{ 5 comments… read them below or add one }

1 Ron April 8, 2013 at 8:12 am

I love this. My family and I just returned to the US from Germany. This brings back memories of me trying to learn German and then teach a little to my at-the-time 3-year-old son to prepare him for German kindergarten. I would go around pretending to be a monster that could only speak Deutsch. hahaha…He could count to ten and knew “yes,” “no,” “please,” and “thank you”…we ended up leaving Germany earlier than expected, but I remember how fun it was to bond with him in unfamiliar linguistic territory.


2 Jennifer Fulton May 1, 2013 at 8:38 pm

This is great, especially for those of us who are either unable or unwilling to speak full-time in the foreign language (me!). I am going to send to my husband, who is a native Arabic and fluent French speaker. I had to laugh at the tip to revisit the old tv favorites. He actually just did this as we searched for a fun family show to watch – they had both French and Arabic programs and we found Tom Sawyer in French. Now I’ll have to get him to find the Arabic shows so we can make some headway on Zach’s very-distant third language!


3 Rob May 6, 2013 at 2:34 am

I think having a family link really helps when learning a language. Both my parents were English but one set of my grand-parents were Swiss (German speakers). I used to love learning & speaking German with them (although my German teacher at school said I had picked up a strange accent!)


4 Missy July 4, 2013 at 3:23 am

It’s amazing how simple moments done on a daily basis can boost language learning and increase the bonding too! I love the thought of old school family activities that makes it extremely memorable for the kids.


5 LanguageLearner July 9, 2013 at 7:07 am

These are some great language ideas. The best methods seem to be those that are “integrated” into everyday life — Not a separate language learning time, but part of daily interaction and play time. Cool ideas!


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