6 tips for teaching your child a second language

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In an increasingly global world, the benefits of bilingualism are innumerable. Introducing your child to another language at a young age will expose them to different cultures and customs. Bilingualism is also helpful for travel, employment and opening the door to connecting with people from different backgrounds.

Research has shown that bilingual children have better social skills like understanding others’ perspectives, communication skills like interpreting tone, and cognitive skills like memory.

If you’re interested in teaching your child another language, here are some helpful tips to get you started. 

Start early 

The earlier you introduce your child to a new language, the easier it will be for them to pick it up. This way, they can get used to the different pronunciations and emphases of the distinct languages they are learning.

Expose your child to native speakers 

According to the American Speech-Language-Hearing Association, you should give your child plenty of chances to hear and practice both languages throughout their day. If you or your partner are bilingual, try speaking your second language around your child so they can pick up the natural sounds. If you are monolingual, you could seek out a bilingual childcare provider whose native language is the one you want your child to learn, and ask him or her to converse with your child in that language. 

Use television and music

Teaching your child a new language via entertainment is a great and casual way for them to pick it up. The American Speech-Language-Hearing Association suggests using movies, TV shows, music and books to help your child absorb a second language.

Use engaging activities

Flashcards can get boring fast. Incorporate language learning into engaging activities like cooking or playing outside. This lets your child actually experience the new language rather than just being exposed to it through repetition.

Spice it up

When children are exposed to a variety of words in a variety of contexts, it helps with their new language development. The Hanen Centre recommends introducing your child to not just words they encounter every day, but rare ones as well. It’s also important to let your child hear a word more than once and in different contexts so they can better understand its meaning and use. 

Be patient

It takes time for a child to get a grasp on a new language, let alone their primary tongue. Don’t expect to be able to have conversations in a new language with your child overnight. But over time and with casual exposure, they’ll learn the rhythm of their new language.

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