There is so much scope for foreign language learning in daily life. Whether you are starting with just a few words or phrases and learning together or you are a native speaker, the first step for your child to acquire the language is through hearing it used on a regular basis.
Your little one is constantly listening, taking things in, observing and learning, even before they start talking. This is a great opportunity to expose your child to another language, and you can do so easily just through talking to them! Even though our everyday activities may seem mundane to us, these can be rich language learning opportunities for your child. A very straightforward approach is to simply narrate what you’re doing as you’re doing it. Talk about what you see as you’re out on a walk. It’s even better if you can point to or show them what you’re referring to - adding a visual element will help strengthen the connection between the word and the object.
It’s so important that your child has this language input from you, however it can help immensely to have others involved. Meet up with friends, even those who don’t have children. The point is to increase the amount of the target language that your child hears in real life interactions. The more that you expose your child to French, the greater opportunity that you are providing them with to hear and learn the language. Les Petits Tigres French classes for under fives are a great way to introduce your child to French and get them familiar with the language, as well as to meet other parents.
Equally important is that your child feels a need to use the language. By immersing them in a situation where the language is spoken, whether that’s by going on a day trip to France or just meeting up with French speaking friends, you create a scenario where you child will find it necessary to use the language. Having a need to speak the language is a powerful motivator - my son always seems to remember exactly how to ask for an ice cream or chocolate, as he’s learned that he’s more likely to get it if he asks in French!
The Multilingual Children’s Association has some great advice about how to set up your own playgroup. It doesn’t have to be a big thing - in fact, to begin with, you might just want to organise a little get together in your own home with other language speakers that you know. You might also look on Facebook and see if there are any local groups in your area that you can join. Keep it simple and set a date for a meetup in a park or reserve a space in a cafe, preferably one that is child friendly
If you don’t know anyone, then the internet is great for connecting with others. Now more than ever we can easily connect with others on a similar journey through websites and social media as well as access resources. A couple of the very best places online in my opinion are the Bilingual Zoo, an online community set up by Adam Beck, author of Maximize Your Child’s Bilingual Ability, as well as his blog Bilingual Monkeys. Bilingual Zoo is great if you’re looking to meet other people online who are also raising bilingual children. The community boasts over 1,000 members and is free to join! And the Bilingual Monkeys blog is an online treasure trove of information, packed full of language learning ideas, tips and resources. Adam writes extensively based on his experience as a teacher and parent of bilingual and multilingual children.
If you have any other tips, do let us know - we'd love to hear from you!