I’ve spent time abroad and, while not ever passing the beginner stage of language acquisition, have picked up enough phrases of other languages to survive. However, the non-English words that come to mind most readily are the little bits of Spanish that I picked up from Sesame Street when I was a kid. Kids are sponges for language, and I really want my kids (4 and 6) to start learning a second language while their minds are still porous. This year, we are introducing French to our homeschool curriculum, undeterred by the fact that we don’t speak it with any fluency! Bolstered by my background in TESOL, my two years of high school French, a refresher course on CD, and Duolingo, I will be using some of these activities and tools to, I hope, start them down the road to bilingualism. Fun first, French second!
Ten Ways To Teach Your Kids A Second Language
Activities for Specific Skills/Vocabulary
We will be using these to practice counting and colors. We might even tie in some of the math they are learning!
We have a big round bouncy horse that the kids can ride on; I thought we could use this to practice counting as well, and possibly some adverbs, eg “faster”, “higher”, “slower”.
Colors again, and body parts!
My sister and I teach our kids together; on her days, she does the calendar and weather in English; on mine, I will do it in French!
Mr. Potato Head
More practice with body parts! How do you say, “angry eyes” in French? 🙂
Tools for Authenticity
I’m fairly confident that for the beginner vocabulary listed above, I can master a passable accent for the 15-20 words I’ll be introducing at a time. However, I hope for more than that for my kids, and that means lots of exposure to native speakers.
Putamayo has several CDs of French music, and there are also French songs for children on Youtube.
I wish there was a Duolingo for kids (non-readers), because I love that app! But since there isn’t, we’ve found some other apps, such as French flash cards and a really cute app, “Gus on the Go.” App time will probably be used as a reward for good behaviour during instruction.
We love Little Pim and have already watched the first three DVD’s over and over. Hopefully we’ll get the next three, as well, but my oldest is starting to outgrow them, so we’ll be looking into other options as well. For fun, we will watch some familiar movies dubbed in French as we progress with our vocabulary.
I am pursuing a weekly class for them with a native French speaker. Hopefully this works out because it is a key part of my plan!
Luckily for us, we live within a day’s drive of Quebec, so I hope eventually to take yearly trips. Nothing beats immersion. However, because immersion is also fairly scary, I want to wait until they achieve a really solid vocabulary, interest, and confidence before I toss them in. Right now, I’m thinking we’ll wait until middle school. In the meantime, there are plenty of French speakers in Maine, so perhaps we will hit up some local cultural festivals! Immersion lite. 🙂
Even though we are learning French, these techniques could be used to teach any language! Speaking in another language is always a little scary, a little risky, so keeping it low key and fun is crucial. My goal is for my kids to have learned 1000 words by the end of the year, but if we don’t make it, we don’t make it. I’d rather they learn 100 words well and enjoy doing it than 1000 words and hate it.
Do your kids speak a second language? I’d love to hear more about how they learned in the comments below!