Children And Foreign Languages

September 28, 2013 Published by

learning a foreign languageLearning a foreign language has many benefits both socially and academically. Learning a second language can be very rewarding which is great for self-confidence, and also and enhances listening, reading and writing life skills.

Children who learn a second language tend to have a better understanding of the world and of other cultures. They also have a wider access to a range of people, friendships, resources and cultures.

In later life, children who know a second languages will have more opportunities to study abroad, opening then up to wider experiences across the globe. Speaking a foreign language is also an advantageous skill in a changing job market, that will enhance future careers and improve employability.

The British Council (2015) has reported that around half of all GCSE students study a second language; this has increased in recent years suggesting that foreign languages are becoming more popular. While French remains the top choice to study, there is growing variety in the languages students are learning.


Here are some tips to help children learn a foreign language.

1. The earlier they start, the easier it will become

Children’s brains are like sponges and can absorb vast amounts of information. Starting will be difficult but will become easier with time, technique and skill. They will become confident in their own ability and their linguistic ability will be enhanced.

2. Encouragement is the key

Learning a language is not easy and often daunting, but very rewarding. Regular praise will encourage your child to practice and increase their confidence. Setting achievable goals (see point 3) will help with this, as you can reward progress each time a goal is reached.

3. Set small, easily achievable goals

If targets are set too high children will lose confidence and self-esteem, as they will be unable to complete them. Make sure goals are realistic and achievable.

4. Get involved

In order to support your child, try and learn with them. Getting them to teach you is a good way to help their progress and understanding too. You can also let them label household objects with the names they are learning.

5. Experience the culture

For example if your child is learning French, you could dedicate a weekend or day to France, or even try and plan a trip there. Speak French as much as possible, eat French food, write down any cultural differences and then note similarities between France and our culture, play French games and even write a fun fact sheet about France. This will help develop cultural awareness.

6. Expose them to as much different material as possible

Providing children with foreign magazines, music, and DVD’s in the chosen language develops understanding and listening skills, and nothing beats listening to native speakers.

7. Get a pen friend

You can get your child a pen friend, so they can chat and write too. However, do make sure you supervise and oversee the letters and the friendship as a whole.

8. Make it fun

For a child to successfully understand new material, learning needs to be fun, active and rewarding.

9. Learn in short regular intervals and repeat, repeat, repeat

Short sessions are ideal for children as they will not lose concentration and are able to process the information correctly. Repetition allows children to become familiar with the vocabulary and it will become second nature to them.

10. Play apps with different language options

This is a great way for children to become immersed in the language, and learn to associate the words with their meanings. All you need to do is change the language setting!


Also see:

Good toys to teach children foreign languages

Good apps to teach children foreign languages


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This post was written by Dr Amanda Gummer

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