Some families with a bilingual parent have a built-in ways to introduce a foreign language to their children. However, for many others in the U.S., it’s a struggle to come up with ways to introduce young children to bilingualism. Although many parents see the benefits of children learning a foreign language (higher test scores, a broader worldview and future opportunities to name a few), many search for ways to get a new language introduced.
If you’re on the hunt for a few easy ways to incorporate new cultures into your household to a love of the world in your child, try these easy first steps…
Use Some New Words In Your Routine
Whether it’s bedtime, meals, or chores, find ways to incorporate foreign dialect into your routine. For example, instead of saying let’s go to the car – just say “coche.” Or, call your aunt “tia.” Or the phrase “Buenos noches” when it’s bedtime. There are lots of ways to introduce new words into your toddler’s routine.
Count To Ten in a Foreign Language
Not only is learning to count in English a great thing to teach toddlers, but teach them how to count in a foreign language, too. This will open up learning on multiple levels as they understand sequence of numbers as well as switching back and forth between languages.
Use Programming to Help
There are several television programs that often incorporate foreign language lessons into their shows. Dora the Explorer is an obvious one, but even Sesame Street and other kids’ shows incorporate words and lessons from time to time. Check out PBSKids, NickJr or Disney Channel for some great programming, and look to see if any multicultural shows are coming up.
Attend Cultural Fairs and Festivals
Many major cities around the U.S.A have cultural fairs and festivals from time to time. Make it a family tradition of attending with your toddler. This may not teach them bilingualism right away, but developing an interest in other cultures early on can help them stay tuned in as they get older and have more interest in learning other languages.
Look into an Immersion School
Immersion language schools are becoming more and more popular. There are schools for young children in daycare, as well as some public elementary schools that offer dual-language courses. This is a way to get your child immersed in a language. That’s why it’s how we lead our study abroad coursework. We feel immersion is the most effective way to teach any student, at any level, foreign language.
Hire a Foreign Language Speaking Nanny
If your child isn’t quite ready for daycare, or you’d like childcare to stay in your home, consider hiring a bilingual nanny. Request for the nanny to speak the foreign language to your child. It’s amazing how fast the children will pick up and understand the new language. As they get older, they may not be able to speak it if further instruction isn’t given, however it’s likely they will still be able to understand the language if they’re introduced at an early age.
If you show a general interest as a parent in foreign language and the world, your children will also learn to share that passion, too. Just take it from our own Alina, who developed her love of travel and connecting with world cultures from her father. One of the greatest gifts you can give your children is an appreciation of culture and a broad worldview. It’s never too early to start.