By Dania Berinde
I want to dedicate this short article to the parents and family members who want their child to speak a foreign language and don’t know when to start and how exactly to start. To begin with, I would like to share my story with you, the story of an English teacher who works with children and the story of a mother who began reading and talking to her son in different languages before he was born.
A burning question, when to start teaching a child a second language?
Normally, by the time a parent comes to me for help, it’s either too late and the child is discouraged or lacks self-confidence or the child hates the language for various reasons. So the answer to the question on ‘when to begin?’ sounds something like, as soon as you can. I give my own baby as an example, I have actively started reading English and German stories to him since he was 2 months old. Of course he does not understand me and most of the times he ends up throwing the book across the room because he wants to hear it drop (my son being 11 months now) but there is no one and nothing that can convince me that in time, he won’t get used to how a language sounds, to how words vibrate and flow and if there is a chance, even as little as 1%, that some of the elements of these languages are etched on the back of his mind and might help him in the future, then I say it’s worth the trouble.
How to help your child learn a new language without him getting bored?
My personal opinion is that boredom is a choice, not a condition imposed, so I encourage parents to help their children have an active mind and of course, take advantage of this activity by bringing some educational activities into the mix. For babies there is little to be done, reading in a foreign language and even singing.
Of course, as a child grows older (2 or older) you can challenge him with more interesting and fun activities in the targeted language. Alongside story time, you can add colorful cards with images and words, this way one begins to associate the written words with the spoken one in 2 different languages. You can even start naming different objects from your house or the surrounding environment, such as book, doll, spoon or tree, river and the sun. I bet your child would love it if you took these cards outside.
For older children (7 or older) you can always read a nice story and then ask him to continue it, to change the ending or even to imagine a new one. Personally, I have discovered that children of this age love poems, so this is another way to go. This way you help him develop some essential language skills and even increase his imagination and creativity and it is safe to say that both are needed in adulthood. As a teacher, I say with a broken heart that many students lack creativity, when faced with a task of writing a story, or even a report for more experienced learners, one does not know what to say, so half my job is to show them how to create the stories needed with adequate background.
Regardless of the age, I strongly recommend the stories on Rafael the Unicorn, because they are fun for children and here you can find characters with a deeply rooted moral compass. These stories depict wonderful worlds in which a child can safely dive and begin his exploration. And as parents, there are interesting things to discover too.
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