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Why Should I Teach my Child a Second Language?

By Memrise Blog

The Dos and Don’ts of Teaching Our Children a Second Language

Giving your child the opportunity to learn a second language is possibly the most exciting and fulfilling thing that you can do as a parent. Well, apart from showing the little one your famous recipe for a chocolate, biscuit and peanut butter smoothie.    

This is something that will bring many advantages to the youngster in their future (the second language, not the thing about the smoothie).

As well as being able to understand a full episode of Dora the Explorer, watch foreign movies without subtitling or sing along to the latest Europop hits, this approach can open their mind to new possibilities and give them a fantastic start to their life.

Getting started on teaching a second language might sound incredibly difficult but it is actually a whole lot easier than you might imagine. The following tips will help you to get started easily and smoothly.

Start Them Young

Basically, the younger a kid gets started on picking up their second language the better it will be for them. In fact, by getting your child to learn a second language at the same time as their mother tongue you will make life a lot easier for them.

This way, they will learn a lot more naturally and also have a better chance of speaking with a near-native accent too. Youngsters pick up new words and phrases very quickly and will soon start repeating what they hear in an instinctive way that is a joy to witness.

If you are worried about how learning a second language might affect their native language development then you can put your mind at ease. Learning a second language will almost certainly help their understanding of their first language in the long run, so don’t think that there is some sort of compromise that you need to accept.

While a bilingual youngster might initially have a smaller vocabulary in each language, their combined total should probably be more than that of their peers. You could try out a few simple YouTube videos (with video translation for you to understand them) or bilingual CDs to get the ball rolling if you aren’t comfortable teaching them a second language yourself.

Consider a Bilingual School

You might not realise that there are now plenty of bilingual schools that get little ones started on a second language from as young as three. Countries such as Holland and Spain are now making a big effort at getting parents to enrol their kids in English language schools as early as possible, while this approach has also arrived to the UK in recent years.

If you do some investigation it may be possible that you find a good bilingual school near you. If not, then what about hiring a teacher to carry out language lessons at home?

This is a great way of taking a sensible, orderly approach to their language education in an interesting way. Ideally, the teachers will be native speakers in the language being learned, as youngsters can pick up accents very easily.

Make It Fun

Does teaching a second language to a toddler sound awfully boring? It doesn’t have to be if you put a bit of creativity and some je ne sais quoi into it.

You can watch foreign cartoons together, sing songs and play with all sorts of interactive toys. If your little language student has a lot of dolls then what about having some of them speak one language, while others speak another?

You could mix things up by watching foreign kid’s shows with an English voice over and then again in the original language.

This is actually tremendous fun for the parents as well. Screaming “vamonos Dora” at the TV or teaching Barbie to say “come si chiama?” can be as thrilling for the older members of the family as it is for the young student.

Don’t Worry About Mix-Ups

Does teaching your child a second tongue sound as though it is going to be horribly complicated? Maybe you think that the little one will end up speaking a confusing mish-mash or might sound like a character from ‘Allo ‘Allo?

The truth is that you can definitely expect a few little mix-ups along the way, as two tongues can get mashed together in a kid’s brain a bit. However, children have an impressive way of sorting out these issues in their heads by just practising more.

A smart move that some families make is to have one parent speak to the kid in one language and the other in a different tongue. It makes for a lot of fun, interesting conversations and unique family jokes that no-one else would even understand.

By giving your child a chance to learn a second language you will be presenting them with a fantastic start to life. Who knows in what exciting ways will that knowledge come in handy to them in the future?


Jade - kids in cataloniaBrought to you by Jade, a lover of travelling and blueberry muffins from Matinée Multilingual: Voice Over Agency.

Jade originates from Scotland and spent a few years living in Spain after graduating university to improve her Spanish. She makes a conscious effort to keep her Spanish fluency up to par now that she’s back in Glasgow.

In Spain, Jade worked as an English Language Teacher in two primary schools teaching kids from as young as three years old! One of the schools was in Catalonia, which is why she got inspired and would love to learn the Catalan language. It would come in handy when she goes back to visit now and again.