5 Tips for Teaching your Child a Language
Interview with Will Collier of Little Linguists Library
1. Do it together and set a target
When was the last time you learned something with your child rather than simply helping them to learn something you already knew? Kids love it when the grown-ups are in the same position as them. But it’s key you decide why you’re doing it. It’s so much easier to stay motivated and to decide what you need to learn if you have a clear aim, like being able to order food and ask basic questions on holiday. You also know how much time you need to dedicate to learning and can see how you’re progressing.
2. Learn language in context
Many people teach their kids vocabulary and give them long lists to learn. They then wonder why they can’t string together a sentence when they meet a native speaker of the language they’re learning. Did you learn English like this? As mentioned above, you almost certainly learned it by hearing, seeing and repeating words within the wider context of a phrase. This is key to your learning as our brains store information by making links between the different things we have learned. Words on a vocab list learned in isolation have much less chance of sticking than words learned as part of a wider phrase.
3. Make it multimedia
These days we have a wide range of resources at our fingertips and this goes for learning languages too. YouTube is positively bursting with kid-friendly videos teaching phrases and songs in foreign languages (some of the songs are annoyingly catchy too), there are websites offering interactive language-learning games and there are streaming sites with songs in all the major world languages - and it’s all free. Games and songs are a great way to get kids interested in a foreign language and they’re fun to do as a family.
4. Make it hands-on
We all have different ways of learning. Educational theorists say we are either visual, auditory or kinaesthetic (learn best through physical activity) learners. I’d argue that everyone is a bit of all three depending on the topic and the time. So, mix up your learning and get a bit crafty. You could play games using flashcards (cards which link a picture to a piece of vocab or phrase) or, even better, make language learning posters to put up around the house (combining your kids’ visual and kinaesthetic learner sides).
5. Have a set time each day
Little and often is better than a foreign language binge every few weeks. Even if it’s just five minutes each day, set a time every day to do some learning in the foreign language. A great quick thing to do if you only have a short time is a role-play, covering the basic introductions (hello, what’s your name, how old are you, how are you). To make this even more engaging get the kids (and yourself) to be creative and invent characters you will pretend to be.
About the author
Will Collier is a tutor of French, Spanish and Latin and also a children's author. He's passionate about learning languages and the benefits this brings in terms of confidence-building, cognitive development, empathy and cultural awareness.
His latest project is Little Linguists’ Library – picture books that allow you and your child to learn a language together.
He is currently running a Kickstarter crowdfunding campaign from Thursday 22nd March to Saturday 21st April to help prepare these books for publication.
Will lives in South London with my wife and baby daughter.
How can you support Will and teach your child a language?
Well, of course, there is the Kickstarter itself, which you can find here. There’s various levels of rewards available, depending on the amount you pledge. It’s all-or-nothing funding on Kickstarter, so if Will doesn’t make his funding target he won’t get the money that has already been pledged (and anyone who has pledged will be refunded).
In addition, you can find him online at his website (where you can join his mailing list) and on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram. He shares tips on language learning with your kids and behind-the-scenes stuff about his writing, so follow him and / or ‘like’ his Facebook page if you’d like to hear more.
**This post is part of our Bilingual Children Series**