When I was a new parent, I wanted my daughter – who is Latina – to know some Spanish. I am not a speaker myself, but the idea of introducing her to a piece of her cultural heritage was important to me. I’ve also tried learning Spanish as an adult, and I’m thinking I might try again.
With a New DECADE just around the corner, many of us are starting to think about what we want for ourselves and our children. Is learning a language one of the things? If so, magnifico! We just might have a way to get you started on your journey.
Picture book stories are a great way to introduce new languages to young children, in part, because they have pictures (visual learning) and context (set in a story theme). These same picture books are an excellent option for adult learners, too.
Today we welcome Heidi Bryant to the blog. Heidi is the author of Catnap Stories, a picture book series where Vince the Cat goes on adventures around the world. Part of each story is learning the customs and language of the featured country or city.
Like Vince, Heidi loves traveling to faraway places, and she is particularly passionate about learning languages. We’re excited to have her write an article about learning languages – and her timing couldn’t be more purr-fect!
Learning a New Language:
Tips for Mom, Dad, and Kids
Many people, myself included start learning a second language when they got to high school. When you think about it, that is really a bit late in life when you consider that children can actually cope with different languages at a much earlier age.[See links to research below.]
Children who grow up in families where parents both have a different mother tongue grow up hearing both languages on a daily basis, and tat normally doesn’t cause any issue for them. That begs the questions: Do I have to wait for my children to learn a foreign language? Can I start when they are toddlers?
The answer is a resounding yes! Children learn by repetition — constant repetition — and learning a language is no different. If a child likes a particular story, then it is pretty certain that they will ask you to read the book over and over again.
I really believe that the best tutor to teach a child is someone who is close to them – like you, for example! You’re already reading stories with them, so why not add books that offer language and cultural learning, too. Fear not if you don’t speak a foreign language yourself – I have several suggestions. The best part? You can learn right alongside your child!
For simplicity, we’ll use French and Spanish as our language examples because they are both widely spoken outside their countries of origin.
Introductory Lessons – At the start, consider lessons tat teach basic, everyday words like numbers, colours, and animals, for example. In-person lessons are great, but DVDs and Apps are also options.
Dual-Language Stories – Look for picture books that have your native language and French or Spanish words woven into the story. These books often come with pronunciation suggestions.
Audiobooks – Whether completely in one language or two, side by side, audiobooks create opportunities to hear words pronounced. If there is a print version to go with it, then follow along on the pages to help your child make visual connections with the words.
Libraries – Nowadays, many libraries offer story time in other languages. There are many bi-lingual resources out there that aren’t just educational text books used in schools. Your local librarian is sure to know how to help.
Music – Do you remember singing ‘Frère Jacques’ as a child? That is the song that sticks out in my mind as a child growing up learning French. The song is all about a friar who has overslept and is urged to wake up and sound the bell for the early morning prayers.
Tongue Twisters – Learning tongue twisters in another language is a fun, unique idea. My favourite tongue twister (trabalenguas) in Spanish is “Tres tristes Tigres tragaban trigo en un trigal.” (Translation: Three sad tigers eat wheat in a wheat field).
What about French or Spanish tutor? Some parents may consider hiring a tutor, but this can be costly and time-consuming. With smaller children, parents likely need to stay in case there are melt-downs, for example, at least until the child develops a relationship with the tutor. While the lessons themselves are one to two hours a week, for the learning to stick it will require practice outside those sessions. In the end, this approach may well prove ineffective for young children.
So why not inspire your child to learn a new language today!’
By Heidi Bryant, Author – Catnap StoriesTM
Copyright Heidi Bryant. All Rights Reserved. Used with Permission
I have always loved reading. One of my favourite books (which I’ve read time and time again) is a short story called “The Lonely House.” I’ve read all of Roald Dahl’s books, as well as the Gobbolino the Witch’s Cat series.
In grammar school, I learned French, German and Spanish. I have furthered my studies, earning an Honour’s Degree in Modern Languages and a Master’s Degree in Translation in French and Spanish. I’ve recently added Italian to my languages.
Losing my beloved cat Mikki in 2018 was devastating. But the loss inspired me to keep the memories of my cats (past and present) alive through writing. Having travelled extensively (without the cats!) through her work and personal life she has now combined her love of cats, her passion for languages and travel into The Adventures of Vince the Cat.
I hope that through the Catnap StoriesTM children are inspired to want to learn about cats (of course!), the wonderful world in which we live, foreign languages, and cultures and customs around the globe.
WEBSITE AND BLOG
- Why Kids Should Learn a Second Language While They’re Still Young by Bilingual Kidspot
- Why Your Kids Should Learn A Second Language by Early Childhood Education Zone
- Benefits of Learning a Second Language by Lead with Languages
- Study: The Exposure Advantage: Early Exposure to a Multilingual Environment Promotes Effective Communication published in Psychological Science