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Teaching your child a language when you don’t speak it

Tiernan McKay is a freelance writer based in Denver, Colorado. Her writing has appeared in magazines such as Alive!, Occupational Health and Safety, Restaurants and Institutions, Tampa Bay and Arizona Woman. Right now, she is either ridi...

Yes, you can!

We know that teaching kids a second (or third) language is a tremendous help in life, but how do you go about teaching, say, French when you only speak English?

Do you think it's impossible to teach your child a second language that you don't speak? It's not. Caryn Antonini is a mom, language expert and founder of the Early Lingo language learning tool for kids. Her insight just may give you the confidence you need to tackle the challenge of teaching a second language...and your kids will thank you down the road.

Why bother?

There's no question that it's easier to stick to one language, but parents are recognizing the advantage of teaching kids a second, or even a third, language. "In order to compete in the global marketplace, our children must learn foreign languages," says Antonini. "There are so many benefits to being bi- and multi-lingual including better scores on standardized tests, heightened problem solving skills and the ability to think outside of the box." Need more reasons? Just think of the tremendous advantage your kids will have when they eventually enter the workforce. Can you say: "hired?"

Find out how to arm your child with a second language >>

Don't feel overwhelmed

Just the thought of teaching your child a language you don't speak can be intimidating, but moms today definitely have a wide range of resources readily available. "There are so many resources these days to help your child learn," says Antonini. "DVDs, television shows, books and magazines can all be very helpful. I would also encourage moms to seek out native speakers to speak to your child exclusively in the given language." Another great strategy is to learn the language right alongside of your children.

Read more about introducing a second language to your child >>

Make it fun

Antonini provides the following tips to help parents make learning a second language fun:

  • Find cultural activities for your children so that they can practice new skills.
  • Visit restaurants featuring cuisine from the culture you are studying and practice ordering in your new language.
  • Watch movies and television programs in another language.
  • Find an entertaining, kid-friendly language learning program, such as Early Lingo, that encourages kids to learn in a repetitive format.

There's no better time

By this time, you're probably recognizing the value of an additional language (or two). Maybe you're feeling pretty confident about teaching your kids Spanish, French or Mandarin but you're thinking about waiting a few years to launch your grand plans. If so, think again. Now is the best time to get started. "Every baby is born with the ability to speak any of the 6,000+ languages of the world," says Antonini. "In the first six months of life, babies babble using 70 different tones, however they start discarding sounds and words they don't hear in their everyday environment." Take advantage of your child's remarkable ability to absorb language skills while she's young. It's never too early, but it's also never too late if your child is beyond the infant years.

Read about learning a second language: Great summer activity for kids >>

Whatever method you choose, be encouraged! You really can give your child the gift of another language. The path to a bi- or multi-lingualism may just be a family adventure.

Read more about kids and languages:

Fun ways to teach your child sign language
Learn a language and culture together
Exposing kids to their cultural roots

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