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5 Easy ways to introduce your child to a second language

Julia Christensen is an experienced tutor and professional writer for Varsity Tutors, a live learning platform that connects students with personalized instruction to accelerate academic achievement.

Being bilingual has many benefits – here’s how to get your child started with a new language

In today's globalized society, bilingualism has perhaps more benefits than ever before. Studies show that learning a second language as a child can be sincerely easier, and that those who are bilingual may have better cognitive skills, in addition to other various benefits. If you plan to teach your child a second language, here are a few fun and simple ways to start the introduction and reinforce new skills.

1. Food

Begin her studies somewhere simple, like a restaurant, to introduce the language in a fun and delicious way. Try using a few new words for things on the table. Perhaps you can tell her you're having eau or agua to drink. If there aren't any authentic restaurants serving the cuisine of the language's area, try looking up recipes together online and cooking them at home. Whether you're making enchiladas, souvlakia or pelmeni, a dish from another place may be an exciting starting point for your student's language studies.

2. Music

Ever notice how much easier it often is to memorize a song than a speech? Help your child hone her language skills with music! Check out music in the language your child is studying by looking online or borrowing discs from the library. While instrumental music can be a good introduction to the culture, be sure to look for music with words, such as children's songs, so you can hear the language in action.

In addition to listening to music from another culture, try listening to music your student already knows sung in a different language. Something with a familiar context, like "Twinkle, Twinkle, Little Star," might help her with her Italian. Look up lyrics online and start singing!

3. Books

Does your child love reading? Not all bedtime stories need to be in your native language! Try looking for your student's favorite book translated into another language, or a new book that comes in two languages: both your native language and the one your child is studying. In both cases, your student can compare and contrast the texts. Ask her which words are very similar, and which are the most different.

4. Games

You can transition one of your favorite games into a different language. Decide which aspects, such as counting money, numbers or colors, should be in the new language based on your student's learning level. For example, early learners may only be able to count the spaces in Monopoly in Mandarin Chinese, while a more advanced student could play the whole game in the language. Try playing Guess Who? in Spanish or Go Fish in French to work on descriptive words, commands and more.

5. Cultural events

Look for events around town that are rooted in the culture of the language you're teaching your child. Whether the theme is food, dance, history or music, a cultural festival can help your student show what she has learned and introduce new areas of study.

For more tips and strategies to help your student succeed in school, visit varsitytutors.com.

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