By: Kaaren S. Agnez
Parents share their passions with their children: camping, cooking, family, home, bicycling, traveling, science, computers, books, films, animals, worship and anything else that they love to do. What any educator or parent can agree is that when presenting new skills, ideas and experiences to children, their motivation is essential for success. Enticing a learner to engage willingly is that magic ingredient that can produce surprising results, such as the three-year-old who reads or even memorizes those long, tongue-twisting names for numerous creatures of the prehistoric era.
When babies learn to speak for the first time, the focus is not on the words, but on the results you get when using them. The same goes for second language learning. Modern parents know that time together is precious and occasionally hard to plan. If parents can create fun activities within their family regime, they will be able to create this passion and need for the new language.
The key when learning a second language is to understand your children and yourselves. What activities does your family enjoy that would lend itself to integrating your desire to build your children’s second language vocabulary? Are you going to have them study the language in a school or privately? If yes, you can integrate their lessons’ vocabulary into fun things to do. If you are planning their introduction to the language, you should map out the words and skills that you want them to adopt. If you need guidance to start, you could consult with a professional who works with children’s language learning. Choose a person who uses activities to teach a second language.
Identify vocabulary that you can use to engage in activities that you all enjoy; especially those that involve repetition. Examples of appropriate activities are : cooking (food, directions, numbers, measures), sports (actions, sports equipment, prepositions), visiting zoos (animals, body parts, colors, food, environment, movement, behavior), aquariums (fish, environments, colors, numbers, ecosystems) and museums, box games, chores in the house (we know that tiny children love helping you with that!), hide and seek, treasure hunts (allowing you to use any vocabulary that they are learning), reading picture books, family games in the car (counting cars, singing, twenty questions), drawing, and playing music. These activities can attract your children’s attention, strengthen your family relationships and allow you to repeat the same words over and over again (without boredom) in a way that lets your children understand their meaning. If you are learning the language as well, these techniques will help you too Try to find picture books and picture dictionaries that reinforce what you’re learning visually and in words.
An approach that works well with children who enjoy playtime with their parents is to visit a toy store and buy a special game or toy that can be used whenever they want to play in their new language. It should be one that will allow you to help your children to learn new vocabulary and to repeat it. For young beginners, Trouble, Twister, cards, Yahtzee, Operation (especially if you can purchase it in the target language), a dollhouse, Matchbox cars and accessories, Legos, and other repetitive games are helpful. Games requiring more vocabulary and useful to develop question and answer skills are: Clue (printed in many different languages), Guess Who? and Guess Where? More advanced games would be Monopoly, Trivia and Pictionary. It is also possible to seek age-and-skill-appropriate games native to a country that speaks your chosen language. When your children are tired of speaking another language with you, the toy is put away.
Immersion programs that have traditional camp activities or a boutique quality, such as the chance to be part of a theatre troupe, or to learn music or other arts skills, are excellent opportunities for your children to grow in their skills and passion for a second language. Family, fun, passion and action will lead you to the best results!
This article was written by Kaaren S. Agnez, owner and director of MiniLinguists.com. Visit their website!
Kaaren S. Agnez raised three children speaking both French and English at home. She is currently studying Spanish and Chinese. She attended the Eugene O’Neill Theatre Center in a college exchange for her B.A. in Theatre. She has an M. Ed. and is the founder of Minilinguists (originally Petit Centre Francophone, 1987). Kaaren is also an Adjunct Professor of French at Montgomery College. This article cannot be reproduced without permission from the writer. Copyright ksa/minilinguists 2013.