So, your child is learning a second language at school and often comes home singing songs, reciting poems, and repeating the new words and phrases she has learned in class. Then she puts a book in front of you with a homework sheet asking for your help, but the words on the page are literally in a foreign language! Chontelle Bonfiglio reveals her tips for getting your head (and your tongue) around helping your kids learn another language.
School language programs have become increasingly popular in Australia over the past few years. Being such a multicultural nation, raising a bilingual child has many great benefits for children. Cultural appreciation, tolerance and not to mention future benefits if they enter the workforce with a second language under their belt. The younger children are introduced to a new language the greater chance they have of becoming a fluent speaker, so there are clear advantages to introducing foreign languages in primary school.
For parents who don’t speak a second language however, learning how to support your child learning another language at school can feel daunting. With these tips, you can support your child and maybe even learn a thing or two along the way!
Take an interest in the language
When your little one comes home singing songs or reciting those poems, ask about her class, ask her to show you the work she is doing at school and talk about what she learned. Really take an interest in what she is doing and encourage her. With support and encouragement, children are usually more motivated to succeed.
Learn along too
Let’s face it, when your child is enrolled in a program, you are along for the ride. If you can accept that, and learn together as you go, it will be a lot easier to understand what your child is doing and be able to support her.
Incorporate language learning in your day to day life
Make language learning fun. Take what your child is learning at school and use it in the home. Play games, sing songs, do some role play together. Let her be the teacher and you the student. It is amazing how much a child’s confidence grows when they realise they know something you don’t. And of course this way, the whole family will benefit from new language skills.
Voice any concerns to your child’s teacher
If you find your little one is struggling, speak to the teacher. Enquire about what they are learning in class and ask what you can do to help. There is no use waiting until the end of the year and wishing you had the answers earlier. Make sure you voice your concerns immediately as they come up. Unlike something like long division or times tables where you have learnt these yourself, you likely haven’t been exposed to the language your child is learning, so the teacher will be the best source of guidance.
Find an out of school immersion class
Language immersion classes are a great way to reinforce language learning. By giving your child the opportunity to practice the language outside of school, it will help them to reach a level of fluency in a shorter time.
As great as school language classes are, there is a limit to what can be taught in only one hour per week. Outside resources and classes will be necessary if you really want your child be become a competent speaker.
Hire a tutor
For busy parents who aren’t always present when it’s time for homework, a language tutor is another option. You don’t need a formal class, but someone to simply come and teach her through play. Learning a language requires practice, and the more practice your child has the better chance of becoming a fluent speaker.
Supporting your child learning a second language requires commitment. Many children go through school attending language class and graduating without really taking any skill in the language with them. A supportive home environment where you take an interest in the language they are learning and offer extra support will give them a better chance at learning, and loving, a new language.
Chontelle Bonfiglio is founder of Bilingual Kidspot, a website providing information and resources for parents raising bilingual kids. Chontelle is a certified ESL teacher who lived overseas teaching children English as a second language for over 10 years. Chontelle is also the founder of Mum’s Little Explorers, a website with kid’s activities, events and travel around Melbourne and beyond.