Is It Better to Let Them Learn – Or Should I Join In?

Who doesn’t remember their kind of crazy middle school foreign language teacher? You know who I’m talking about…

That seemingly out-there character who came into French class dressed as a mime (beret and all) or absolutely, positively refused to speak even one word in English all semester long (leaving you totally clueless about what you were learning).

Your not-so-easy learning experiences as a tween or teen has provided the inspiration for teaching your child a second language early on. With that said, should you step back (in fear of re-living those loathsome lessons) or join in with your little one’s language-learning journey?

Learning Time is Bonding Time

imageBetween preschool, playdates, pee-wee soccer, your job, grocery shopping and everything else that you do every day it doesn’t seem like you’re exactly open for your child 24-7. Sometimes we all have to carve out time to sneak in some bonding with our kids. Keeping the connection with them takes work. It seems like it shouldn’t. But, with everything else that keeps the two of you apart, why not use language learning as a time to stick together?

School, sports, a growing social circle (both yours and your child’s) are all creeping into your together-time. Instead of spending even less time together, make learning a foreign language a mommy-child activity adventure! Whether it’s going to classes together, hanging with your kiddo and her tutor or relaxing on a Saturday afternoon while watching a Chinese movie (minus the subtitles), the two of you can take on the journey to being bilingual together.

Cancelling Out Confusion

You kind of, sort of remember Spanish or French from high school, right? Now that your child is talking to you in another tongue, you maybe might recall the ‘right’ way to answer her. You’re doing your best, but you’re rusty for sure! We’ve all been there. It’s decades after taking your last foreign language final, so how can anyone expect you to remember the proper pronunciations of words that you might have learned 20 years ago?

This is a really important concept when it comes to what your child is learning. He or she is like a sponge, and they’re sucking up everything they see and hear. If she hears you using improperpronunciations or the wrong tones, you’re not helping her to learn. Even though you mean well, your best intentions are reinforcing language that’s just not correct. Jumping back in to language learning, and tackling a new dialect with your young child, gives you the chance to practice the ‘right’ way of speaking. Instead of saying, “I don’t know” or trying to make up an answer on the spot, you’ll be able to answer your child’s questions, correct them when they make a mistake and talk to with them – all in another language!

Relaxing Together

Learning should never be a chore. With this in mind, becoming bilingual needs to be fun! Parking your preschooler behind a stack of books, making her sit and passively listen to a teacher or talking at her in another language turns raising a bilingual child into a task – for both of you.

You already listen to the radio, watch movies and read books, right? So, turn these everyday activities into learning experiences that the two of you can enjoy together. Pop a Chinese language CD in during your ride (instead of the radio) or watch foreign TV shows (in their native language, and minus any subtitles).

Setting an Example

You want your child to learn another language, so why wouldn’t you? Speaking the language that you want your child to learn sets an example and provides a serious strategy that can help her to develop conversational skills, awareness and understanding.

By joining in and taking part in the language-learning fun you’re showing your child just how important being bilingual is to you. That said, the decision whether to step back or jump in is all yours. Whether you do or don’t, involving yourself in some small way (even if it’s something as simple as listen to a Chinese song or having your child read a Spanish children’s book to you) motivates your child to learn in a way that’s much more enjoyable than what you may have experienced in your younger years.

Are you taking the plunge and learning a second language with your child?
Comment below and share your bilingual journey story with me!

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