Learning a second language as a kid is exciting! They're discovering other cultures, practicing new traditions, and building their language skills through songs, games, and stories. Picking up vocabulary and language foundations comes easy; and unknowingly, kids are getting a big cognitive boost in brain development through being bilingual.
It can be intimidating as a parent supporting your child in a foreign language. Are you a monolingual parent trying to raise a bilingual child? A bilingual parent helping your kids navigate learning a language foreign to you? Don’t stress!
Incorporating a second language into your home can be easy, fun, and rewarding for the whole family. It’s important to remember that repetition is key when learning a new language. Practicing outside of the classroom environment helps kids make leaps and bounds in their vocabulary acquisition and confidence in speaking with others. Here are five tips to help kids continue learning a language at home:
1. Set the whole family up for success
Find a language program that doesn’t just support kids but parents as well when it comes to learning a second language. At Mariposas Spanish School, we provide parents with monthly resources and materials to use as a guide for at-home learning. Our goal is to make sure parents feel comfortable and engaged with Spanish in a way that isn’t intimidating.
Whether it’s Spanish or Mandarin, join a language program that engages your whole family in a meaningful way. One of our favorite things to hear from parents is that everyone in the family (yes, even older siblings and grandparents) had fun learning Spanish with us.
2. Turn up the music
Music is an excellent way to integrate a second language into your home! Not only is singing a fun way to practice, but songs help kids retain vocabulary and understand the structure of the language.
Simple and familiar tunes are the way to start, like ¡Feliz Cumpleaños! (Happy Birthday) or Buenos Días (Good Morning). Your family probably already knows both songs in English, making it easier to sing along to and understand in a second language.
For families ready to karaoke along with Spanish songs, we’ve got you covered! Mariposas recorded two excellent kid's Spanish albums with Grammy-nominated Austin musicians. For songs in another language, like French, we recommend searching for a kid’s Youtube playlist like this one.
3. Watch your favorite show… in Spanish!
Did you know that you can change the language audio on your child’s favorite TV show? If you head over to Netflix and select a family favorite, like PJ Masks or Cleo & Cuquin, you can change the audio to Spanish, German, French, or Mandarin. PBS Kids also offers some wonderful TV shows like Daniel Tiger in Spanish via Amazon Prime. ¡Que padre! (How cool!)
YouTube is also an excellent resource for kids to discover the culture of their second language. We like to look up a country or city + ‘virtual field trip for kids’ to find great educational videos to watch. On the Mariposas YouTube channel, we’ve got a wide range of songs, basic lessons, and poetry for kids to enjoy.
4. Download a children’s language app
Another easy way to engage your kids with their second language is during screen time. We recommend looking for educationally structured apps: they reinforce foundational concepts, are challenge appropriate, and allow kids to feel independent while using. Our app, Spanish School Bus, is based on the Montessori method and reinforces foundational Spanish language skills like numbers, shapes, colors, foods, and more.
5. Set a realistic weekly goal
Kids learn best when they’re consistently engaging with a second language. Set a manageable calendar reminder for each week that is language time. Take 15 minutes twice a week to sing, watch a video, play games, or read in Spanish. Practice and use that vocabulary you’ve been building, regardless of fluency!
It will take a few weeks to develop a language routine and figure out which ways are the best to continue learning a second language in your home, but once it clicks you’ll be so glad you did it! For more fun and recommendations, make sure to follow us on Instagram (@mariposasspanish) and join our Facebook group! Ready to get started? ¡Vamos!
About Mariposas Spanish School: Founded in Austin, TX, in 1999, Mariposas Spanish School provides families with high-quality extracurricular Spanish. For over twenty years, it has served children across the globe with an innovative Spanish curriculum and has helped prepare them to become global citizens. Mariposas Spanish School was voted ‘Austin’s Favorite Place to Learn a Foreign Language’ by Austin Family in 2019. For more information, visit www.mariposasspanish.com.