How To Teach Your Kids a Language - In A Non-Native Home!
So, you want to teach your kids a language?
But... there’s just one little thing…..
You’ve never spoken a word of the language in your life.
Well, except for maybe those hilarious Dora imitations you do for the kids or a handful of words back in college...
Or maybe you grew up with a second language at home but as an adult, your grasp of the language has slipped away.
You want your kids to have a connection with your incredible heritage but knowing where to start feels totally overwhelming.
I want to help you discover that teaching your kids a language - even if you don’t speak it - is SO rewarding, super fun and, with a few insightful tips, nowhere near as hard as you think.
You don’t need to be able to speak the language to teach it! You can learn WITH your kids!
These tips are inspired by my friend Aileen Passiello-Mcaleer a bilingual Venezuelan-Italian mama and co-founder of MamaLingua.
Aileen grew up in a Spanish speaking household but spent most of her life at school speaking English. While bilingual was the norm in her household as a kid, it wasn't until Aileen had her children that she knew she wanted to pass Spanish onto them.
She’s shared some super practical advice for teaching your kids a language - even if you speak little or none at all - so let’s dive into the tips!
Tips for Teaching Your Kids a Language
The ‘chunking’ approach can really speed up language learning.
There are words and phrases we use all the time and the idea of ‘chunk’ learning is to teach your kids a certain number of words and phrases that they’re going to say or hear frequently.
Focus your ‘chunk learning’ on the most commonly used phrases for bathing, eating, changing, playing, sleeping and other common routines.
Learning this way focuses more on vocabulary rather than grammar. It takes the stress out of feeling like you need to know Every. Single grammatical rule in your target language - which can feel seriously overwhelming.
Repeat, repeat and…..repeat!
As a mum, I feel like I repeat myself...a lot!
PICK YOUR SHOES UP!
Eat your dinner!
The good news is, for most kids, repetition is the key to success when learning a language.
If they only listen to a new phrase or word once, how likely are they to remember it? Not likely!
Repetition, on the other hand, creates permanence. There are high levels of repetition in your daily routine at home - every day you’re doing the same routines - dinner time, bath time, bed time, etc.
This is the perfect opportunity to pick up those short phrases and repeat them over and over again. Basically, learn the 20% of your target language you say 80% of the time.
This is a really empowering technique because it’s such a simple way anyone can begin!
Find three or four sentences related to a particular daily routine, bath time for example, and start there.
It takes the pressure off of feeling like you need to know every single vocabulary word and the ins and outs of sentence structure. Just start with 5 words or 3 sentences.
Aileen used this technique when teaching her son Spanish.
“The whole point was to learn the word and replace it. From then on this is the word you're going to use for that,” she said of incorporating Spanish into her daily routines.
Bilingual flashcards with pictures are a fantastic learning resource kids will enjoy.
Our Languages For Kids membership includes beautifully illustrated Topical Phonetic Flashcards. Kids are visual learners so the pictures will help them learn new words faster.
One side has the Target Vocabulary, the other has the English. The phonetic spelling is also included to help with pronunciation - because that’s often the most overwhelming part, right?!
Easy and compact to carry around, take the cards with you on picnics, car trips, and playdates.
Incorporate video learning
Videos are an amazing learning resource for those mamas who don’t speak a word of the language to be able to introduce new words to their kids.
Language input is an incredibly important part of your child’s language journey and incorporating video learning allows them to pick up the sounds of the words the natural accent of a native speaker.
We include a series of Immersive Topical Language Videos in our Languages For Kids membership - they make language lessons memorable; literally! Video learning has been found to have positive effects on the medium and long term memory.
Celebrate culture and diversity
I love the idea that language really builds cultural bridges!
Helping your kids connect the new language they are learning to the culture will take the experience to the next level.
Food is a great way to do this - why not have a themed dish for dinner once a week! Visiting cultural festivals, museums and watching movies are also great ways to introduce the culture behind the language.
Tips for teaching yourself a Language.
While you’re teaching the kids, you’ll be learning too, but here are a few tips just for mama’s learning the language.
Pick your Sanctuary.
Pick a place to practice your target language when you’re not teaching the kids.
“Pick one place where you decide this is going to be the place I practice my language vocabulary - the kitchen, the bathroom, the bedroom, whatever it is,” suggests Aileen.
“Pick that one place and it will signal to you that that's where you have to practice your new words.”
Start with 4 or 5 words, you can begin by starting with those words connected to your sanctuary.
If you’ve chosen the bathroom, your first 4 words, for example, could be towel, soap, toilet, and shower.
For each word you master, replace it with a new word.
Set goals (baby steps!)
Create some tangible bite-size goals to guide your language lessons.
Let’s say you’ve picked your sanctuary as the bathroom, set yourself a mini-goal of a timeframe to master your first 5 words.
“It's very easy to get overwhelmed with his idea of learning a second language, but we don't have to make it so overwhelming. I think it's a lifelong journey.” encourages Aileen.
Find your community.
I’m ALL about community and mama, you aren’t alone in your mission as a non-native to teach your kids language! Finding a group, online or in-person, will really help keep you motivated and encouraged through the journey.
Our Languages For Kids membership gives mamas access to The Cultured Home. This super practical program has been designed specifically to help non-natives speakers teach their kids the language.
The program includes:
- Immersive Topical Language Videos
- Phonetic Topical Flashcards
- Play-based Lessons Plan designed to Provide a 30 Minute Lesson and
- Age-Appropriate Language Activity Sheets.
It isn't just some random language resource on the internet...it’s a family of the most powerful group of inspired mamas on the planet. All teaching their kids a language in a supportive, inspiring community. You are not alone!
Take it one word at a time, remember it’s long game and know you’re actually doing an AMAZING job!