Studying may seem like the obvious way to perfect a new language, but it can be easy to overload your child’s memory with too many words, grammar rules and pronunciations. Sometimes a practical environment can be more beneficial than a theoretical one. Away from a desk and a textbook, it’s amazing how much information your child can absorb when they approach languages more naturally. Here's a few tips to help make languages fun again.
Watch foreign movies
Watching movies in a foreign language takes lessons back to the way we learnt our first language as babies – by simply sitting and taking things in. Your child can watch an old favourite they know back-to-front, dubbed over in their second language. Or, if they feel like challenging themselves further, they could watch a movie native to the country of their second language. Subtitles can always be switched on in their native language to aid understanding if necessary.
Utilise language apps
In an age of smartphones and instant gratification, it’s unsurprising that sophisticated, intelligent apps have cropped up to improve language abilities. Apps like Duolingo are free and game-like in structure. Eliminating the pressure of a rigid ‘study environment’, the app measures a user’s understanding so they can track their progress. Skills are grouped into topics for ease of learning, and they’re tested on their reading, writing, listening and speaking.
Try to read their favourite book in a second language
Similar to watching their favourite movie in a second language, encouraging your child to read a translation of a book they have read before can help refine the finer aspects of their understanding. Using their knowledge of the original text, they can make educated guesses as to the meaning of some of the more confusing words, or simply look them up. One of the greatest benefits of this kind of revision activity is it helps perfect their understanding of grammar –the aspect of language-learning children typically find most difficult.
Cook recipes in the second language
Improving two skills at once, you can encourage your child to attempt a recipe in the second language. If you visualise how you cook – muttering measurements and ingredients under your breath until you’ve got them memorised – you can see how it’s a simple, educational method of perfecting your knowledge of basic foreign vocabulary. There is a cultural benefit to this activity too. Exploring another country's cuisine helps your child better understand the lives of the people who speak the language they want to learn. Once they have mastered their own recipes, you could also take them to a restaurant that serves this cuisine and encourage your child to order with the correct pronunciation.
Listen to foreign music
Looking back again at how we learnt our first language as babies, listening to foreign music immerses your child in a second language the way natives know it to be, not just an exam board. Hearing native verbal structures and pronunciations enough will help your child develop an internal dialogue in their second language. This in turn will make drastic improvements to their ability to hold foreign conversation.