Teach Your Kids a Second Language from Home
The benefits of learning and speaking a second language are plentiful. They include all sorts of fancy terms like improved executive functioning and metalinguistic awareness, better English reading skills, and cultural awareness and sensitivity. Even without knowing a second language, there are so many things you can do to expose your children to another language and begin their journey to bilingualism.
I speak English as a first language, but that didn’t stop me from teaching my daughters Spanish. The first step (and the hardest step!) is to commit yourself. Before my oldest daughter was born, I decided I wanted my kids to be bilingual, and it was up to ME (the primary caretaker of our daughters) to make that happen. I decided I was going to speak to my kids in Spanish all the time. I am fluent, but I am FAR from the level of a native speaker. My commitment wasn’t one of perfection; it was a commitment to try. I would speak Spanglish at times or tell my daughter I’m not sure of the word and then say it in English. Lots of google translate and asking Alexa how to say ___ in Spanish.
If you don’t speak a second language yourself, there is still SO much that you can do to teach your kids a second language. We try to do these things whenever possible in our household!
- Have your child watch tv in the target language. Change the language setting on Netflix or other tv apps to play their favorite shows in the target language.
- Listen to children’s music in the target language. Our personal favorite for Spanish is Jose Luis Orozco.
- Read books in the target language and/or listen to books on tape. For Spanish, brush up on the Spanish alphabet, and you’ll be reading to your child in Spanish in no time!
- Take your kids to places where they can practice the target language. If you’re teaching Spanish, take your kids to the El Rey grocery store to practice some of the Spanish they’ve learned, or go to a Mexican restaurant where you know the waiters speak Spanish and encourage them to practice there! When we’re back to being able to go on vacation, choose destinations where the family can practice the target language. This step is crucial for reinforcing the importance of learning a second language.
- Decide on a time of day to speak exclusively in the target language. For example, breakfast every day could be in Spanish.
- Label items around the house to encourage yourself to speak the target language and the kids too.
- Follow experts on Instagram for more ideas on how to do it! The Spanish Mamá on Instagram is my favorite for great tips on how to get going teaching your child Spanish from home.
Kids’ brains are AMAZING. Never fear that they won’t figure it out. By 2 years old, my daughter had sorted out the two languages and knew they were two separate languages. Never fret if your child knows a word in one language and not another. Identifying it is what’s most important, and knowing the word in two languages is like knowing double!