When my kids were born, I was determined that they would learn to speak French , as it is my husband’s native language. However, because we only spoke English at home, it was, needless to say, a bit of a challenge to really immerse them in French.
I learned that we would need to be proactive in exposing our kids to the French language on a regular basis.
Teaching kids a foreign language has many benefits, including helping them to become better thinkers and learners.
Learning a foreign language isn’t always an easy feat, especially the older we become. That’s why it is better to start early. No matter their age, here are just a few reasons you might strongly consider making sure your kids are exposed to a foreign language as soon as possible.
According to a study done by NEA Research, kids who have been exposed to a second language perform well academically.
The time children spend on learning a foreign language reinforces what they are learning in English and other core subjects like math, social studies, and language literacy. It also helps with listening skills and sharpening memory skills.
Before age 8, children’s brains are already developmentally ready to soak in a second language. This is the best time to expose them to a foreign language, as during this time fluency comes quite easily.
That said, however, it’s still never too late to get a start.
In our family we have wavered a bit on sticking to our French language exposure, and although our kids are older (one teen and one big kid) we are currently reintegrating this back into our lives. We enjoy Rosetta Stone and a myriad of other resources, such as a Spotify playlist of children’s French songs, French storybooks, language learning podcasts, and videos on YouTube .
We decided that learning French thoroughly is worth it to our family, so we invested in Rosetta Stone French . We screencast the computer to our TV monitor, then our whole family gathers around as my teen daughter works through the modules for high school credit. This has been a fantastic way for all of us to learn French together!
However you choose to learn, just know that there are plenty of resources available for learning foreign language. Rosetta Stone produces high quality courses that our family trusts, and when it’s time to learn a new language (Spanish is next on the list), we’ll likely use Rosetta Stone .
Also, remember that some exposure is better than none at all. Of course, daily immersion is always best, but even if you’re able to only get in a few minutes per week of learning time, it helps.
Kids’ brains are constantly developing, and like sponges, they tend to soak up what’s in their environment. Kids soak up the little nuances, inflections, and rhythms of foreign language spoken in their home, all of which serves as wonderful brain stimulus.
In addition to contributing to higher test scores, there is evidence that learning a second language can change1 brain composition by adding gray matter.
Like learning music, learning a new language can help your child to exercise their brain, giving it a good workout! Learning a new language keeps their mind sharp, increases intelligence, and helps them to be better at decision-making.
Kids who are exposed to foreign languages often have an increase in creativity and memory skills as well.
The fact that French is my husband’s native language makes learning about it all the more intriguing. As in any language, French is not only a language, but a culture.
When you connect your children to a foreign language from your own cultural heritage, it sheds a new light on your personal family traditions and history, and helps your kids to understand their heritage better. Learning a new language isn’t only about learning the linguistics and conjugating verbs, but about connecting with a culture.
Even if the culture is not your own, it’s always a treat to learn about other cultures and to experience them first-hand through acquiring foreign language skills.
Kids generally don’t worry so much about what they are learning so much as they worry about having fun . You can make learning fun through games, videos, audio and other resources that will help bring the language to life for them.
A nice dose of “virtual travel” might be a good opportunity to expose your kids even if you can’t actually hop on a plane for a trip around the world. Some websites that allow kids to learn about other cultures and have fun with it are Scholastic Global Trek and Little Passports.
And, of course, if you decide to take a trip, immersing your family in the language by actually being in the country is a great opportunity for everyone! You’ll get to speak with locals and be a part of that culture in a very tangible way. Suddenly, the foreign language you’ve been studying doesn’t seem so foreign any more.
Have you thought about reasons why you might begin to expose your kids to a foreign language?
Demetria Zinga is a homeschooling mom of two and mompreneur whose passion is to help other women succeed online. You can find her blogging and podcasting at christianhomeschoolmoms.com