Learning together: 7 Tips to learn a foreign language with your child

May 14, 2014 at 7:47 p.m. ET

Looking for an educational activity to share with your child? Consider tackling a foreign language with these words of advice from Varsity Tutors.

mother studying with daughter

Photo credit: Ridofranz/iStock/360/Getty Images

Speaking a second language can unlock multiple opportunities. Many companies seek applicants who are bilingual, and proficiency in a second language shines on college applications. In addition, understanding a second language can open your mind to different ways of viewing the world, and the comparison can highlight the intricacies of your native language. Who would not want as much for their child? Who would not want as much for themselves? It is never too late or too early for self-improvement, and parents can take the opportunity to learn a second language along with their children. Here are some suggestions for getting started.

1. Recognize that if you have a very young child, you will learn at different speeds

Concepts that are simple for you to understand and remember (i.e., you already know what a verb is) can be difficult for your student. What your child finds interesting may bore you. Consider investigating two separate programs (one for adults and one for children) or staying several lessons ahead of your student so you can assist him or her.

2. Locate child-friendly language programs

Travelers’ guides may not be appropriate for your student. Local libraries, on the other hand, are an excellent resource for instructional CDs and guides, as are online language learning sites. Such programs may be too easy for you, but it may be useful for you to watch them with your child in order to build a strong foundation and observe what your student is learning.

3. Discuss what you both learned

What confused your child? What would he or she like to know next? Look for opportunities to identify connections between your experiences.

4. Find movies, television programs or music in the language you’re learning to share together

Such sources can demonstrate the dialect, idioms, pronunciation and syntax of the language, as well as showcase its culture(s).

5. Seek a native speaker or expert to assist you

This may be a teacher at the local community center, a tutor, a willing neighbor, grandparent or spouse. It is important for you and your child to practice with one another, but you will also benefit from someone who can occasionally correct you.

6. Be respectful

Remember, language is an entrenched component of a culture, and you are a guest in this unfamiliar culture. Remain aware of ingrained preconceptions or biases. For instance, an extreme example would be to recognize that a Cinco de Mayo fiesta in your backyard is not the same as speaking with real individuals in Mexico. Your student will follow your lead, so set a positive example.

7. Your child may not like it

Consider this a friendly warning. Learning a language is a great deal of work, and “self-improvement” or “rediscovering cultural heritage” are not phrases that typically motivate younger students. Keep your study fun and interesting, and prepare yourself for a difficult (yet ultimately rewarding) adventure.

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

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