Easy Ways to Expose Kids to Languages

In my  travels, I have encountered so many parents who would like their children to learn a foreign language.  The conversation usually begins something like this: “I wish I could teach my child(ren) a language, but I don’t speak one myself.”  This is usually followed by: “Languages are not offered in my child’s school.” or “Languages aren’t offered until Middle or High School in this area. I’d like my child(ren) to start sooner.”

While all of the above seem like valid road blocks for parents, there are also many, seemingly hidden, resources available enable children to begin the process of becoming multilingual.  Without going into all of the reasons that children should learn foreign languages (see my previous post on this topic), I can safely say that it’s surprisingly easy for parents to get their kids started, even if they don’t know a language themselves.

In addition to various computer programs that parents can purchase, such as: JumpStart Baby and Jumpstart Kids, there are many FREE ways to get started.  Here are some suggestions:

Utilize Television

Children’s channels such as Nick Jr. and PBS Sprout offer bilingual programming. While creators of these children’s programs could implement more language learning opportunities within each broadcast, they are a good place start:

  • * Ni Hao Kai Lan  (English/Chinese)
  • * Dora the Explorer (English/Spanish)
  • * Go Diego, Go!  (English/Spanish)

On Demand 
In addition, if you are a Comcast/Xfinity Cable subscriber, the On Demand feature provides programming providing foreign language lessons in a natural way.  Just flip on the television and let your baby or child watch.  Best of all, it’s FREE!

(Did I say “baby?”  Yes, I did!  Research shows that a young child only needs to hear a word 2-3 times before it is learned.  Why? Because they’re learning it as they learn their first language!)

Simply go to the “Kids” channel and explore the following:

  • BabyBoost’s “Bilingual Baby”  (English , French, German, Hebrew, Russian. Spanish)
  • Check out “Brainy Baby” for French and  “So Smart” for Spanish

Did you know that most movies are available in languages other than English?  All you have to do is click the Special Features area.  Most Disney films come with both a French and Spanish option.  Initially, children don’t need to understand the film to watch it in another language.  You will be surprised at how much they can figure out on their own, especially if they have seen the film in English before!  My boys learned quite a lot from watching Finding Nemo in French! It was amazing!  **Older kids who might be learning a language in school can benefit from this as well. Watch it in the foreign language and activate the English subtitles to learn even more!

Give it a try!
While plopping your baby or older child(ren) in front of the TV will not cause them to become fluent in a language, it does get them started by introducing (for younger kids) and refining (for older kids who are already learning a language) vocabulary, sentence structure, proper pronunciation, and accent.  Better yet, watch with your children and learn together!

Be sure to post some comments and let us know how it goes! 

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