Learning a new language is always a challenge. Whether the language employs the same or a similar alphabet to English, or it uses completely different characters and sounds, it will consist of a lot of hard work. Despite this, the task can be fun and extremely rewarding, not to mention valuable. In general, being bilingual is an asset, especially for children hoping to impress on college applications. The challenge of learning a new language also becomes easier if you’re learning with others. So, whether you’re looking to broaden your horizons or hoping to prepare your child for the competitive landscape of college applications, or both, learning a new language with your kids can be an enjoyable and helpful experience. Here are five tips for doing so as a team:
- Color Words Together.
Coloring words in whatever language you’re learning together is a fun project that can help your child remember them. The time spent concentrating on the the words, whether they share an alphabet with English or are made up of different letters or characters will also aid you in committing them to memory—especially if you are a visual learner. For some languages in which the words are written to resemble the thing they represent, this is especially helpful. Regardless, you and your child likely enjoy coloring already; this is a great way to incorporate language study into your fun, quality time together.
- Read Folktales or History With Your Kids.
Reading folktales, fables, and fairy tales in English with your kids is a great way for you both to begin learning about a foreign culture. Every one has its own legends and stories, and even those that don’t have many folktales likely have a rich history that can make for exciting and educational story time tales. This is a great introduction to the language for very young children, who may not quite be ready for extremely structured learning. However, older children can also enjoy this method to actively learn the language: perhaps with every page of a story, you can introduce a word related to something on that page, then review them at the end. Not only do folk and fairy tales fascinate children, they also teach them valuable lessons about the culture(s) tied to a language.
- Take Your Kids on a Day Trip.
An outing to a culturally rich and unfamiliar neighborhood is a great way to engage your kids in learning. They will be curious about many things, will ask questions, and can spend the day absorbing new information—even though it feels to them like simply having fun. This can be a great way to review the words and phrases you’re both learning, as well. If you don’t have a neighborhood nearby that reflects the language you are learning, consider seeking out relevant film, art, and cultural events. If you’re able, planning a vacation to a country that speaks that language is a fantastic way to immerse yourselves and learn even more quickly!
- Listen Songs and Dance Together!
Many people find music a helpful tool in learning, and listening to songs is a great way to further immerse yourself and your child in a culture. Dancing makes it even better! It’s an active and extremely engaging way to get to know the culture, remember words, and simply have fun.
- Take a Class With Your Kids.
Look for a local school that has group classes for both parents and their kids, or provides private classes that can cater to you and your kids learning together. This will enable you to learn a lot while still supporting your child’s development in the language, and provide you with the extra reinforcement you need to master the tougher or more confusing aspects of a language. If there isn’t a school in your area, or none fit your needs, remember that there are also online classes, as well.
Learning a new languages can be a great way to broaden your horizons, help your child stand out in an academic setting, and make a challenging endeavor more fun and supportive. A variety of activities can be used to keep you learning without feeling like you’re always studying. Try out some activities, take a class, and make your study interactive; you’ll be shocked at how quickly you learn!
Wendy Huang, CEO of Beijing Chinese Academy, was born and raised in China and graduated from Northwestern University. Nicknamed, “The China Success Coach”, Ms. Huang teaches kids how to speak Chinese. Founded in 2007, Beijing Chinese Academy offers exceptional Chinese language instruction to kids of all levels in Los Angeles. For class schedule, please visit www.beijingchineseacademy.com.
Photo courtesy of Jimmy Baikovicius [FLICKR]