How do I help my child learn a language that I don't speak?
Mandarin Chinese, Spanish, French, Hebrew--many schools offer awesome bilingual programs. Isn't it wonderful? It is such a gift to give your child knowledge of another language. But you may feel a little intimidated. What if you don't speak that language? How can you help your child learn it?
To answer this question I turned to my language learning/ bicultural-celebration expert Christina Thuli. Ms. Thuli is an expert English Language Learner teacher and approaches learning any language the same way--with enthusiasm and joy. So I asked her to give us some tips.
1. Make it a family affair. Remember, you aren't bilingual....YET. It's never too late and learning alongside your child is a GREAT way to support them. Use an app like Duolingo to get some basics down. Ask your child to teach you some of the words they are learning. Show your child what "fearlessly practicing" looks like and use the words you learn in conversation. Buy a few bilingual children's books. Turn on the Spanish subtitles as you watch a movie on Netflix. In short, support your child by learning alongside them.
2. Keep it playful. If you took a foreign language in middle or high school you probably have not-so-fond memories of conjugating verbs. No offense to your teacher but this is not the best way to learn. Although grammar instruction has its place, songs, skits, books, role playing, and silly rhymes will help make that language stick a little quicker. For example, consider making a sock puppet and calling it your family bilingual expert. Take turns being the puppet. Even reluctant children will try out new vocabulary if it's a "puppet" doing the talking.
3. Seek out experts. Odds are there are people in your community that are native speakers of the language you are trying to learn. Reach out. Put up flyers in the library. Meet them for an after-school coffee and practice your conversation skills.
4. Think bi-cultural and not just bi-lingual. The truly wonderful thing about learning a new language is that it is a key to unlock a new culture. With your child, research the country where the language is spoken. Look at maps, pictures, and try new foods. Consider setting up a family savings jar and make visiting the foreign country a goal.
Did you know I love to work directly with teachers, families, administrators, librarians, dads, students, abuelas, community members, program directors, teachers-in-training and literally everyone else? Talk to me.