Parents, thank you! For all your hard work and support during lockdown, juggling with your work and ours, helping your child go through the motions and find the motivation to keep on learning in challenging circumstances.Chapeau!
You are your child’s first and best teacher after all!
Whether they be monolingual or bilingual, parents play a key role in their children´s attitude towards language learning.
So how can you help your child be part of la crème de la crème of language learners?
What are thriving language learners made of? Clue: it´s not cream…
First, let´s demystify language learning! In fact, the idea of a musician playing different types of instruments doesn´t faze many whereas people who can express themselves in various language come across as supreme –human?– beings. The brain can tune to and play several languages…
Let´s start with a quiz:
- Everyone can learn a language.
Do you remember helping your baby turn the pages of the dictionary to put them to sleep? No, because that never happened. Language acquisition is not about memorising endless vocabulary lists. Every mother tongue a gift from Mother Nature and the stepping stone to foreign language learning.
- Children who are good at maths are not good linguists, successful language learners have a separate profile.
Amongst the best language learners there are a number of excellent mathematicians, but also excellent musicians, excellent artists, excellent athletes, excellent informaticians… language learning is so multi-faceted, there is something for everyone to enjoy and thrive in: mathematician get hooked on patterns, musicians on rhythm and sounds, artists on the creativity thinking in a different language offers, athletes showcase their Olympian resilience whilst informaticians are happy to discover yet another code…
- Children brought up in multilingual settings are better language learners.
True and false!
Cats don´t make dogs, or do they? Whilst it is true that a child growing up listening to and using at least two different languages will be wired differently from their monolingual peers, children brought up in monolingual settings can do just as well when it comes to foreign language learning. In fact, they are often more rigorous if not accurate, deprived from the comfort of ´innate´ oracy skills, characteristic of bilingual children.
So what is that je ne sais quoi that thriving language learners have in common?
There is an undeniable psychological dimension that plays a central part in successful language learning: fearlessness!
The best language learners are those who are not afraid…
- to fail
- to try something new
- to sound, look, be funny.
- to open themselves up to different ways of thinking and different ways of being that will forever change the way they see themselves and the world around them.
They know it is ok not to understand everything, not to be understood sometimes, to make mistakes, to try again, to learn and to enjoy learning!
They are not aiming for perfection and therefore they are the perfect learners, enjoying the challenges and the rewards that come with learning.
So, dear parents, show them your fearless side by immersing yourself in the language and using it!
- Watch your favourite movies with subtitles! Share the words you remember at the end.
- Regularly tune in to radio stations from all over the world and let it be your background music from time to time
- Cook recipes from all over the world: watch them in their original language! Repeat the names of key ingredients and verbs after the chef, ask your sous-chef to check and correct your pronunciation!
- Book a holiday abroad and teach yourself and each other the essential phrases you will need to get by and connect with the locals. Set up daily, competitive goals: who wants to buy an ice cream in Spanish?!
- Search for your favourite restaurant´s menu: read it and translate it with your language expert.
- Organise an afternoon out with bilingual parents and children within your community. Agree on a number of phrases to use with them. The first to use them all wins!
- Play bingo in another language
- Bend it like Mbappé/Cristiano Ronaldo/Messi: look up a few words before your match and use them!
- Have a Eurovision contest at home: choose a country, learn their song, dress up, go!
- Organise a fashion show describing your outfits in the language of the designer you are modelling for…