The benefits of language learning are well documented, and with the rise of bilingual schools in the UK there are more opportunities than ever for children to learn languages from a young age. From September 2014, all schools in England will be required to teach a foreign language to children aged 7-11. Make sure you know how your child’s school is planning this, and start thinking ahead to ensure you are ready to support your child on such a special journey.
- Make time
The precursor to all the following points! The road to bilingualism and / or language competence is a long one – it requires an investment of time and effort – but what better to invest it in than your own child? Language learning no longer needs to be a difficult skill learned at school but forgotten post-16. We are now raising language learners for life – citizens of the world – with language skills that will be of benefit long into the future. Let’s take the time now to set up our children for life.
- Be positive
Don’t expect too much too soon, but prepare to be astounded when your child starts to fly! Talk to your child about what they are learning in their language lessons. If you are also a competent speaker of the language then find opportunities to bring the learning points into your daily lives at home. If not, then you can make a difference by showing you are interested, being supportive and praising their efforts!
Be prepared to set aside holiday time to visit the country your child is learning about – they will need exposure to the language in as many natural situations as possible, and chances to interact with native speakers in a variety of contexts. Cultural awareness is also hugely important, so get involved as a family in food, celebrations, art, architecture, entertainment etc. during your stay. Extend your child’s learning outside the classroom and you’ll not only see a huge difference in their language learning, but also in their enthusiasm for learning.
- Enrich your environment
Surround yourself with language and culture at home. The Bilingual Bookshop has a huge selection of books and games for children learning languages, and is happy to advise on products that would suit your particular situation. Download an app for one of the country’s radio stations, display photos of holidays to the country, bring home souvenirs to have in your home. Any way you can bring physical reminders of the country into your home will help your child to feel they are part of it.
- Seek role models and be one yourself
Role models can provide inspiration and an excellent example to your child. From children in the park on holiday to sportsmen and women in televised championships, from film and music stars to penfriends, other families or a new babysitter – be aware of opportunities to highlight and interact with other language speakers in your family’s daily life. If you don’t speak the language, why not enrol in classes yourself – learn alongside your child so you can share in their journey. Ensure that you take up opportunities to inspire and support your child at every step and you’ll be on the road to success!
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