Creative Child

How to Teach Your Child a Second Language This Summer

by Deborah Song

After a recent trip to Spain where we visited friends, I became so thoroughly impressed by their 7-year-old son who not only spoke Spanish and English fluently, but also spoke conversational Korean and French. But he is not the anomaly. In many non-English speaking European countries, it’s not uncommon for students to speak two foreign languages by the age of 9 because foreign language is an integral part of their school curriculum. I couldn’t help feeling that our kids were at a disadvantage in this regard.

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The benefits of learning a foreign language are far reaching and extend beyond simply linguistic advantages. Kids who speak more than one language have better problem-solving and critical-thinking skills. In their book, “The Bilingual Edge: Why, When, and How to Teach Your Child a Second Language,” Drs. King and Mackey give the problem-solving example of the different ways to use an empty water bottle. Bilingual children, they said, came up with more answers because their brains were mentally flexible. Research shows that bilingual children reach early milestones sooner.

So how exactly do you teach your kids a second language? If our schools aren’t doing it, then it’s a task we have to take on at home. Yet, the casual and sporadic dialogue I engage my kids with sprinkled Korean words here and there isn’t nearly enough to get the job done, I’ve learned. Experts weigh in and offer these helpful tips for teaching your child a second language.

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1. Teach through a fun activity. It’s not secret that our brains retain material we’re interested in. But too often, language is taught using flashcards or out of a textbook in a very dry manner. But by engaging in an activity that your child might find more interesting, like making a car out of a box, is likely to help your child remember, and having the process and nouns re-explained in a foreign language, is more likely to get your child remembering words and phrases in a foreign language.

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