Improve the minority language of your child
When it comes to language development, you might think that your child is a full-fledged superhero—and that’s absolutely true, especially in comparison to adult language learners. The complete multilingual development of my 6-year-old son has astounded me.
Even after about 20 years in Korea, I’m still very far from fluency and still think of myself as an intermediate level of the Korean language.
My son surpassed me a while ago, but it’s the minority language that is a major concern to me. I’m French Canadian, and I was raised, by bilingual parents but mostly in French, so I want to make sure that my son also has the benefit of having a third language to help him through life. It’s not an easy task to teach my own language but he has been on the fast track to learning it in my mother tongue.
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Even if learning many languages is simple for young children, the volume of spoken language directed at the child is the single most crucial element in multilingual acquisition. This is where it gets tough for me because we have an English/Korean-speaking home with very little French around us. So, if you’re concerned that you’re not doing enough, here are some good starting points to increase your superhero’s innate abilities.
Real Life Tips for True Bilingualism
At an early age try to participate in (or find) a language-specific playgroup, for whichever ever language you’re aiming for. Look through ads on Craigslist, or Parents’ groups on Facebook for your region. There are no better language teachers than other youngsters; kids of all ages will benefit from one another’s knowledge.
You will also network with other parents of multilingual kids, which is a bonus. We are struggling with this one here as all of the groups for French-speaking kids are based in Seoul, and we are several kilometers on the outskirts of the capital.
You must be aware of the value of reading books to your child and the beneficial one-on-one interactions that this time gives to you both, but keep in mind that language learning can also be incorporated into them. I advise all parents to start reading to their child at a young age and never stop because books are the best language education instrument. Have you ever read Kipper, Biff, and the family with Oxford Reading Tree? I truly recommend the series.
Put the smartphone down and use your voice to read! Create a discussion with your child and encourage their thoughts, replies, and elaborations as a great way to extend the reading time (and make it intimate). Talk about what the characters are like and what they might be doing next. Some books offer bilingual children versions of their books, some have 3 or more languages included in them. Books are powerful tools! It’s the best option for young kids to learn new language skills and new words.
Second Language Acquisition
Add video, television, and gaming to books. There are many tools available to help with fluency in their minority language. The best games for language memory are those that make use of rhyme. I Spy, Bingo, and memory games while using illustration cards are other fun ways to practice vocabulary.
I’ve been using the Phonics Monster English series for my son and I simply translate the French vocabulary for him. I also have flashcards that I make him memorize. Don’t make it a chore! Make it fun and implement it early.
Sing and dance
Children adore music, but don’t just rely on recorded music; even if you sing off-key, it will still help your child connect melody and words more effectively than any expert recording ever could. Melody is a great memory booster and great for a child’s development as well.
Consider how much simpler it is for kids to learn their ABCs when they sing them as opposed to simply memorizing them. On top of that, the addition of music to movement and gestures will liven everything up and provide antsy kids a wonderful outlet to simply move.
Although I’m not one to show Youtube videos to my son, I use Rock ‘n Learn. This one is great for French learners and they have other languages as well. I use the Bluetooth speaker for this and he repeats the words and sings along to the songs. He knows most of them by heart, my little superhero! This could be a great option for your child’s bilingual development
Incorporate Their Interests
Whatever your child may be passionate about, whether it be soccer, dance, or horses, try to incorporate their interests in the minority language. Dinosaurs and Cocomelon are huge favorites of my 6-year-old son. We did watch Cocomelon in French, on Youtube for some time, but he grew tired of it.
Kids grow fast, we have to keep up with them. I’ll eventually find another program for him to enjoy in the target language.
Find Different Ways
The key is to offer your child much to talk about, so prolong that exchange! Encourage your little ones to invent their own stories, dress up, and play pretend in the minority language. Be multilingual while playing and make sure your child incorporates the minority language or foreign language, while doing so, you’re in charge, so make sure he uses it. Try art, painting, sidewalk chalk, or even molding clay! Get him talking!
Think outside the box
Being multilingual is a lot of work. I’m the French speaker of the house, so I need to find ways to have, at least a little, French given to my son every week. It’s not an easy thing to do, but it’s doable and he will thank me when he’s grown. I often test him on vocabulary. I ask him in English and he tries to reply in French. We also count in French when we can and many other subtle ways that I try to incorporate his minority language into our multilingual family.
A good way to have your child be involved/stay involved in a minority language is to have Skype, Zoom, or Webex classes with a native speaker of that language. It was one of my resolutions this year, to have my son take French classes via Zoom, but I’ve procrastinated on this part. The new year is around the corner!
Multilingual Baby sitter
Find a college student who speaks the language, or for something more consistent, try a nanny or an au pair. Depending on where you are living in the world and which minority language you want your child to learn, these options might be a viable way to boost your child’s comprehension and speaking skills.
The ultimate language boost is to visit the country where the minority language is spoken. Total immersion for a couple of weeks has an amazing effect. And visits from friends or family also provide a valuable way to learn. It might be the most expensive tip on the list, but surely one of the most helpful.
These little ‘superheroes’ are like sponges! They absorb everything so quickly and without much hard work. Speaking aloud in different languages is a crucial part of your child becoming bilingual or even multilingual. But, as mentioned earlier, reading is also a huge part of the puzzle, especially in early childhood.
It’s time well spent together with words, illustration, a storyline, and your voice. In any language, reading time is the time that has little to no distractions for you and your child.
The single most significant action parents engage in with their children is likely reading aloud to them. A child who is read to will be more motivated to learn to read and to enjoy reading. A child who develops a love of reading will have the chance to learn for the rest of their lives and have a better chance to develop a second or third language.
Reading aloud stimulates brain function and forms the basis for literacy development, according to Dr. Andrea Pastorok, an education psychologist at Kumon Math and Reading Centers.
According to studies, reading aloud to your child increases his proficiency, and students who read the most are more likely to perform well academically.
Practical Tips to make reading aloud enjoyable and fascinating:
- Get started reading aloud to your child right away. Reading to a young child helps him become more aware of the rhythm and structure of language.
- Keep in mind that listening skills may be learned. It needs to be gradually taught and developed. Read slowly enough so that your child can visualize what he has just heard in his or her mind in any language.
- Reading aloud to kids fosters their creativity and imagination. Observing illustrations also promotes a love of the arts and makes understanding the new language more relatable.
- If a chapter is too long to read in one sitting, choose a page or paragraph to stop. Keep it for the next day!
- When reading, use lots of expressions. If at all possible, alter your voice’s tone to match the dialogue and tempo of the narrative.
- Delay reading lengthy descriptive passages until the child’s vocabulary, creativity, and attention span are ready for them, otherwise, you’ll lose them and they won’t follow the story.
- Excessively active kids could find it challenging to concentrate while listening. They can keep their hands busy with paper, crayons, and pencils while listening, or other tools, if needed.
Set a Strong Foundation
So where to go from here, you ask? Well, I would start with going to your local library and looking for language books to read to your child. That’s the cheapest way to start. Yes, you could use screen time, as it has a vast resource of several language programs for kids, but I would start with books and move to Youtube later on or maybe even TV shows.
If you start with Youtube, with its visual appeal and sounds, it’ll be hard to convince your child to switch to books. You can use the books to your advantage and have alone time with your child. If you’re the minority language speaker you must make extra effort to introduce the language in written, visual, and spoken forms.
It’s very doable! I’m doing it. There are many interesting ways to introduce a bilingual situation to gain language exposure. The best time is now~~
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