Here’s How to Teach Your Young Child a Second Language

Children are highly impressionable, and you should not underestimate their ability to absorb information and learn new things … even when they’re only two or three years old. If you’d like your child to be bilingual, start practicing immediately.

Four Tips for Teaching Your Child a Second Language

One of the wonderful things about teaching young children a second language is that it won’t feel like work to them. They’re already so accustomed to learning new concepts and activities almost on a daily basis — whether it’s how to talk, walk, or play on their own — that the notion of learning a second language will seem normal to them.

They won’t even realize you’re making a conscious effort to teach them something that other children aren’t learning. They just accept it as a part of life. If you’re unsure about where to start, here are four tips you may find helpful:

  1. Make it Fun

You aren’t going to be able to persuade kids of the long-term benefits of learning a second language. Their primary motivation isn’t going to be education, anyway; it’s fun. So why not make the process interactive and engaging?

One of the best ways to get young children engaged is to make use of mobile apps and games. You’d be surprised by how many different options are available in your app store.

Whether it’s the Aleph Beis App for learning Hebrew or the Spanish School Bus App for learning Spanish, almost every language has a collection of mobile learning solutions available online.

  1. Teach One Word at a Time

Think about how children learn their primary language. They start with one or two words, such as Dada or Mama, then slowly build up their vocabulary word by word over many months and years. So take the same approach with a second language.

Don’t get frustrated if it takes a child a few weeks just to perfect one or two words. You want to ensure she or he is actually absorbing the information and not just repeating what you say. Kids have years to build their vocabulary and it’s best to let them set a decent pace.

  1. Find Local Classes

At some point, your child will reach an age when he or she can begin to pursue more formal language training. Each person has his own particular learning curve, but most children will benefit from classroom teaching by the time they’re three to five years old.

Try to find some local classes and ease your son or daughter into one. A more structured environment will help your youngster learn some of the nuances of the language that he or she would find difficult to pick up from other sources.

  1. Teach by Example

Most American parents don’t speak a second language, sad to say. If they have a little familiarity with another language, it’s usually from a high school or college class they took years ago.

This can pose a problem once your children reach an age where they take closer notice of what you do. If they realize you don’t speak a second language, they’ll wonder why they have to put forth the effort.

Thus, one of the best things you can do for your son or daughter is to lead and teach by example. If you want a kid to learn Chinese, maybe you should start learning it, too. Modeling the behavior will make your child more willing to participate.

It’s Never Too Early

You can’t start teaching children early enough. Even before they start saying their first words, they’re listening to and absorbing information from the world around them.

Children as young as a few months of age will start to understand things you say. If you take this into account, you can begin teaching a second language at any time.