Learning another language takes time and dedication. There will be ups and downs along your child’s language learning journey. Times when you or your child want to give up. Especially during this challenging time with COVID-19, your family may have lost sight of why bilingualism is important to you.
So take a moment today to remind yourself what the research shows about the benefits of language learning – supporting academic achievement, providing cognitive benefits to students, and affecting kids’ attitudes about language learning and other cultures.
If your child is learning at a bilingual school, a recent study by Stanford University found that elementary students in immersion programs have better linguistic competency than non-immersion high school students taking advanced AP courses in that language!
Learning a second language is going to be worth it! Whether your child is learning at home with you or attends a bilingual school, language learning is a journey.
Stay positive and patient, and help your child stay motivated to stick with it!
As a parent, don’t underestimate your power of influence over your child’s attitude. Remind your child how valuable it is to know another language. If your child is in a bilingual education program, choose to only talk positively about school, your child’s teachers, and how much your child is learning and growing. Read through my top ten benefits of being bilingual to remember why you want your child to learn another language. And you can definitely talk about those benefits with your child in kid-friendly language.
Connect with a friend
If your child has a friend from school, daycare, or anywhere else who speaks the language, set up a playdate! It could be a video playdate right now. Try to encourage them to use any Spanish they can together. During the summer or breaks from school, just connecting with a Spanish-speaking friend might help!
Make a dailySpanish time
If you don’t already use the minority language at home (perhaps your child learns at school or in childcare), add the minority language to your daily routine. Even 30 minutes that your kids come to expect every day. “It’s Spanish time!” Explore my top recommendations for apps, websites, YouTube channels, music and books. Or go explore out in nature. Grab some Spanish books from the library or listen to Spanish kids’ music while you make some art or do another fun quiet activity.
Pick engaging activities the first week or so and then let your kids pick from the choices you’ve done (perhaps you want to write down your “Fun Spanish Ideas” on a poster) – or see what they come up with! Try to make it a positive experience (“We GET to watch _____ together today!”). If it goes well, increase it to an hour!
Notice Spanish around you
Even in the small Minnesota community where I live, we hear different languages when we’re out and about. Check out this map of the languages students speak at home around the Twin Cities. Point out when you hear any people speaking Spanish. “Wow! They speak Spanish like you! Isn’t it so great to be bilingual?” Or “I wonder what language they’re speaking. It sounds fascinating!” While this seems simple, it helps your child notice and appreciate that other people in the community speak Spanish – and many other amazing languages. It is one small step in teaching our kids to value and appreciate diversity.
Create an immersion experience
Surround your child with the minority language to create a need to use the language. You might consider traveling to a foreign country (someday) or a neighborhood nearby! You might discover a language class or camp. Immersion could also come from regular video calls to relatives or friends who speak the language. Let them see the real-life benefits to knowing a second language. Help kids gain their own passion and motivation to learn because they have authentic ways to use their language skills.
Connect to your child’s interests
You know your child best. What are some of his/her interests? Think about topics, toys, TV characters, sports, whatever you can explore in Spanish around your child’s interests to build up their intrinsic motivation. Connect Spanish learning to what your child already loves. My son (almost 8) adores Pokémon right now, so I could check out Pokémon library books in Spanish, or we could make our “Pokémon Go” outings language learning time by switching our game app to Spanish and talking about the characters in Spanish.
My daughter (age 5) loves unicorns. We could do a unicorn craft speaking all Spanish, practice our colors as we draw a unicorn, label body parts on the unicorn in Spanish, or again, find books about unicorns in Spanish.
Set short-term goals
In order to provide a sense of accomplishment, help your child set some short-term goals. Help him/her meet these goals and feel proud of the hard work. Think about your child and what a next language learning step could be. This might be as simple as “Let’s see if we can increase our Spanish reading time from 15 to 30 minutes every day this week!” It might be: “Do you think we could learn all the color words together in Spanish before _________?” Or “Let’s learn how to count up to ____ in Spanish together.”
Try something new
Add in some fun to spark language practice at home. How about an Hola Amigo box? Created by two educators and moms raising bilingual kids, it is a language learning monthly subscription for kids from toddler to elementary ages. You can order a single box or subscribe to receive the fun, hands-on Spanish learning materials. I appreciate that the elementary boxes (taken from website) “bring a new theme and country to your home each month! Each item included will create language and cultural connections in a fun and hands-on way!” We couldn’t be happier with Hola Amigo boxes in our bilingual home. They are one of our must-have resources that I highly recommend to families.
Try one of these 8 ideas to encourage your child to stick with it. Don’t lose sight of why you are giving your child the incredible gift of a second language. Even during a challenging time, there are ways to stay positive and motivate your child on this language learning adventure. Stay inspired!
How else do you keep your child motivated to learn and speak the minority language when he/she gets discouraged? I’d love to hear from you and to connect with you on social media.