How To: Learn Two or More Languages at Home

Tips on Promoting Two or More Languages at Home

Here  are some tips for those able to introduce more than one foreign language to your kids at home.  It’s from Cantarima, makers of foreign languages DVDs.

In today’s increasingly multicultural world, many children hear two or more languages being spoken on a daily basis.  Studies have shown that children that grow up with more than one language outperform their peers in verbal and non-verbal skills, and perform better on standardized tests.  Plus as they become adults, they will have competitive advantages in the workplace.  So how should parents encourage language development of two or more languages?

Here are tips for parents to promote multi-language learning in children:

  1. Make sure the children hear all languages as often as possible inside and outside the home.
  2. Parents should use the language they know best (usually their native language), and should find as many opportunities as possible to use the language with the children. Parents may have a different common language with each other.  If one parent chooses to speak more than one language to the children, the languages should be differentiated by specific and consistent usages (for example, one language in the house and the second in public).
  3. Consistency is important; if one parent is going to speak a second language at home, for example, that parent should speak that language in all situations. Switching to another language to reprimand, for instance, would cause negative associations.
  4. Mixing of languages by children is common as they acquire vocabulary; parents should not criticize, but help them learn the appropriate words to complete sentences in one language.
  5. Language development varies amongst children, and learning multiple languages may slow verbal development; however follow your intuition about your child’s progress and talk to your doctor if you feel your child is not progressing as he/she should, to eliminate hearing loss or other developmental issues.
  6. A supportive and varied language-learning environment, including books, music, videos, etc. will help children develop their language skills more fully.
  7. Developing a social environment outside of home that supports the language, such a playgroup with other children that speak the same languages, will provide additional language reinforcement as well as invaluable interpersonal communication skills.
  8. Caregivers and grandparents can successfully introduce language to children, when given ample time to develop their language relationship with them.
  9. Understanding the native language of one’s parents and caregivers is an important part of children’s cultural heritage and sense of community.   Parents should look for ways to reinforce the cultural aspects of their heritage, which will in turn enrich their language development, for example by going to an ethnic music and dance festival.

By Mia Wenjen, PragmaticMom

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