Boosting Your Child's Foreign Language Skills

Wishing to open their children’s eyes to different cultures and countries, nearly nine of 10 Americans agree that U.S. students need to increase their awareness of the world, especially their knowledge of foreign languages, reports a recent survey conducted by the Educational Testing Service.

Numerous studies show that exposure to foreign-language study between the ages of 3 and 15 increases children’s ability to learn. Specifically, knowledge of languages improves cognitive growth and helps students learn word origins—and students who study a second language do better on standardized tests. Also, in the increasingly complex and competitive global market, knowledge of another language is a valuable, nearly essential, job skill.

Want to help your child learn that all-important second language? Try these tips:

  • Check out opportunities for formal language instruction, beginning as early as preschool. Many public schools now introduce foreign-language learning as early as kindergarten.

  • Expose your child to people from varied language and cultural backgrounds. You may want to rent videos or watch television specials featuring characters (real life and fictional) from other countries.

  • Participate in events where language and cultural diversity are celebrated.  Go online or peruse your local newspaper for cultural events in your area.

  • If you speak a language other than English, use it with your child. Point to objects in your home, for instance, and say their name in English followed by their foreign language equivalent

  • Speak positively to your child about the value of learning another language. Play up that it’s fun and exciting traveling to far-off lands, especially when you’re able to speak several languages.

  • If your child is already in a language program, ask the teacher how you can reinforce the learning at home. Some parents swear by writing a foreign word on an index card and affixing it to the object for which the word stands.

Further Reading
Still tongue-tied by foreign languages? Check out these features on how to raise a bilingual child: