Skip to main content

Learning a Foreign Language - Make it an Exciting Adventure for Your Child

'Teaching spelling, Ulamba Orphanage, Nr Siaya, W. Kenya' photo (c) 2010, Moving Mountains Trust - license: You should be proud that your child is making an attempt to learn a foreign language, as this is a skill that will serve them well for the rest of their lives. Don't worry if you do not know the language yourself; you can still play an important part in the child's learning process. It can even be a great opportunity for you to learn as well.

Break the learning down into three main areas: oral, written and verbal. At each stage, there are many useful things you can do to expose them to the new language and help them get a quicker grasp. Let's check out each of these below:

Listening Skills:

Various kinds of audiotapes and books are available as linguistic aids. You can start off with the beginner level tapes where the speech is recorded very slowly to help the child to comprehend what is being said. Once they improve you can get them to read aloud. Language videotapes are even better since the child can see what is being talked about; their mind makes a faster connection between pictures and the words they hear.

Other ways to enhance children's listening skills is to get them to watch movies. Make sure that it has subtitles in their native language, else they might be completely lost and the exercise will be a waste.

Music is also an effective teaching medium; expose them to simple songs written for children for the purposes of learning. It will help if you can get the translated version of songs in the language that they already know; the familiar melody will keep them interested in listening to the song. Or you can be creative, take one of their favorite songs and get it translated into another language.

Written Skills:

Learning a new language is easier if it uses the same alphabet set that the child is used to reading and writing in. A good example of this is English and French, although the accents will be new in the case of the latter. On the other hand, a child who understands English and is trying to learn Russian will have to put in more time and effort in because the language is completely new. There are many words in the French language that are in fact similar to the English equivalent and could be guessed without having heard the word before.

For example: musicale and musical or omelette and omelet

Another great tip for helping your children improve their written understanding is to get them to sign up for a penpal who is fluent in the language they are learning. This is a bit of an old tradition but rather than exchanging letters they can exchange emails, which are much quicker and will speed up the learning process. They will get a chance to talk to real people about real-life topics in a new language. This also allows them to move away from a formal speech style taught in textbooks to one that is actually used in daily life.

Spoken Skills:

It is easier to learn to read and write in a new language, but speaking it is the toughest of all. The child is not used to the new sounds that their tongue is expected to produce; this often makes them shy away from trying but persistence and encouragement are key. The most effective way to learn a foreign language is to visit the country and encourage participation with locals even if it is just a few words to start with such a hello, good bye, good morning and good night. 

If cost is an issue then you can get creative and have night in at home dedicated to the particular country. For example, if you are trying to help your child learn Spanish then have a Spanish themed evening with decorations, traditions, flags, and food. At the beginning your can encourage repetition by referring to an object or piece of food in the child's language and getting them to pronounce the equivalent in Spanish. 

Take every opportunity to get them to speak the new language, as this is where the real gains in term of fluency and understanding will happen. You could get them to join a language club at school or meet up with friends who speak this language. Dining at a specialty restaurant where this is the primary language of the chefs and waiters is also a good idea; encourage your children to read the menu and place the order. Explain to them that it is ok for them to use the wrong pronunciation in the beginning or to take extra time in framing their sentences before they speak. They will definitely improve with continued practice over time.

Experiences and Cultural References:

Get them acquainted with the traditions and customs of the foreign country. This includes the attire worn by the people, the festivals they celebrate and the food they eat. It will enable them to appreciate the importance of the language more. Check to see if there are any festivals, shows or local events that can be attended.

When learning a foreign language, children tend to lose focus quickly but keep them encouraged by constantly spending time with them and coming up with creative ways to learn. Be open to trying new or different techniques, remember not every child learns in the same way.  Learning a new language can be the most exciting adventure your child has had, provided you make it fun for them.

Author Bio:

Jennifer Baracho is currently a writer for, a multi-linguist and enjoys traveling to explore new cultures and languages. She has years of experience in educating children of all ages and loves teaching French and Spanish.


Popular posts from this blog

10 interesting facts about the Russian language

In my previous post I promised to follow with the  interesting info about some other languages. So here are 10 facts about the Russian language which might be of interest to those who are studying it. If you would like to have this list in Russian, please contact me and I will send it to you by email. So, what do I find interesting about my native language?

1. Russian has about 500,000 words, but only 2,000-2,500 of them are used frequently. 100 most frequently used words make 20% of all written and oral speech. A high school graduate's vocabulary usually has 1,500 to 4,000 words. Those who have graduated from a higher educational institution normally have a richer vocabulary consisting of approximately 8,000 words.
2. It's compulsory for all astronauts in the international space station to learn Russian, so we can call it an international language of space :)

How to Reply To a Negative Feedback About Your Translation

We are humans and we screw up many times!

And receiving a negative feedback about your translation work if one of them.

As translation professionals, we work daily with people from different cultures and backgrounds. So, it is quite important to keep a level of etiquette while we do our business communication.

Whatever your years of experience or your educational background, there are times when daily life affects our business badly. It is how we react to these situations what makes a big difference between professional translation service providers and those who are not.

I was lucky enough when I started my translation career back in 2004 to read about the “A Complaint Is a Gift” business book and receive my training by a true professional Arabic translator.

My colleague taught me the tactics of a professional’s reply to a negative feedback and the book mentions the bright side of receiving a complaint about your work. If the client does not like your work, he can just move to anothe…

Clients vs translators: how do we show that we're honest?

This is a personal post, and I'd really like to hear the opinion of my colleagues about such situations and how to deal with them.
My situation is kind of like the one described in Mox's blog.
In December a new prospective client wrote to me asking about my availabiility for a new project. When I read the overall description of the project, I got really interested in it. But the client needed to know exactly how much time it would take and how much it would cost. No problem, just send me the text to look through or a part of it so I could get the gist of the style, level of complexity etc. In the reply that person just stated the wordcount, but there was no sample. I thought, maybe they didn't understand me. English is not my native language after all. In my reply, I stated the estimated time and cost based on the client's wordcount, but I repeated the request to see a part of the text. And then the person thanked me and ... disappeared.