If you are an expat and move very frequently, you can get tired to learn a new language every two or three years. This is more than understandable. You probably send your children to an international school because this makes the constant moving easier.
However, if you want your child to learn the majority language in order to be able to interact and play with the children in the neighbourhood or go to the local sport-clubs etc., there are many ways you can help your child. If you already live in the country of the language your child should learn, it has the great opportunity to learn and use the language in its natural context. You don’t need to hire a teacher for this. You just have to provide your child with a social context that motivates and promotes the learning.
Whether your child is a toddler or an adolescent, there are some tips about how you can help your child to like and learn the local language. And you don’t even have to be good at languages yourself.
1) Learn the language yourself
First of all: be positive and passionate yourself. Take this great opportunity to learn the language alongside your child. Practice what you preach and be a good role model for your child. This is the magic key: if your child hears you speaking the new language, it will be more likely to speak it too. And be careful not to make any negative comment about the language or culture: if you dislike the language, your child will not be keen to learn it.
2) Rhymes, songs, audiobooks etc.
The repetition of rhymes in nursery rhymes, poems or songs is a very good way to get to know a new language. The sentences are often short, understandable and easy to learn by heart. It is a very effective way to absorb a foreign language for all children and adolescents (and even adults!). There are many audiobooks for every yeargroup. Choose translations of books or films your children like and already know in another language. Let them listen the stories and songs over and over again… Go to the local libraries. They often organize readings for different yeargroups. This is a great opportunity for your children to meet peers and have first contacts.
3) Dive into the culture
Taste the local food and surround yourselves with music, radio, TV, typical games etc. Go and visit musea, movies, theaters. It’s the easiest way to get a “language and culture shower” for yourself and your children. If you only stick to movies, music etc. from your homecountry or the countries you’ve been before, you’ll never really feel integrated into the country you’re actually living in.
4) The power of peers or the help of a babysitter
If your child is a bit older and knows already the basics in the foreign language, peers are the best way to practise the language. For younger children, parents often tend to hire babysitters in a language their children already know. If you want that your child learns the majority language, find a local babysitter.
5) Encourage your child and be positive
If you encourage your child and are supportive during the learning period, your child will make the best progress. As I already said in a former post about learning a language for expats: Passion is above all the most important factor in learning any language (or anything else in life…).
- 5 tips to learn a new language for expats (expatsincebirth.com)
- The importance of reading for multilingual children (expatsincebirth.com)
- The Benefits of Learning Another Language! (greenbeankindergarten.wordpress.com)