Foreign language teaching methods to help children speak fluently
Despite the fact that nowadays, we have a number of techniques for learning foreign languages, as well as different foreign language teaching methods, all of them have one thing in common. Namely, if you ask how to master a second/foreign language, the answer in each of these approaches will be similar – by using it regularly. So, the key to successful learning of any foreign language is exposure and usage.
When it comes to foreign language education in primary school, it means that classes on their own are not enough, i.e. if the child no longer has any contact with the language after school, anything they have learned will soon start to disappear. This applies to all school subjects, and particularly to foreign languages.
So, you need to encourage your child to use the words they learn as often as possible outside the classroom, because the best way to learn any language is to use it.
Of course, the role of parents can be crucial here. First, the key thing is to motivate the child, not force them. When they are young, children acquire knowledge best in stress-free and pressure-free environments – through play. Therefore, it is necessary to create a stimulating and supportive environment for learning a foreign language.
What does a stimulating environment for language learning look like?
- A child should feel safe and protected, and learn a second language outside of school in a completely natural way, similar to the way they’ve acquired their native language.
- We need to praise and reward the child for everything they do right. If they encounter an obstacle, it is important to support them and overcome it together.
- If you feel the child is tired, let them have some rest and enjoy other activities. Simply, learning a foreign language outside the classroom should be more like play than formal education.
Should the child start learning a second language at an early age?
Experts may not be able to tell you what the easiest way to learn a foreign language is, but they do recommend the best time when your child should start acquiring it. Specifically:
- Research categorically proves that learning foreign languages at an early age gives the best results. Therefore, your child should acquire a second language in addition to their native language.
However, what is it that enables children to acquire languages more easily than adults?
Natural acquisition. When they start acquiring their native language, young children use their innate, instinctive strategies of language acquisition which enable them to start speaking at such an early age. It is similar with foreign languages – the younger the children, the more they will rely on these innate strategies and be more successful. An example of this is children whose parents speak different native languages. Such children will easily master both languages in early childhood.
In contrast, as children grow up, these effective innate strategies give way to other forms of learning, so they start learning languages by memorizing words and grammar rules, similar to the way they learn other school subjects, and consequently, the language in question is no longer a natural part of the child’s expression.
More time and space. When they are in preschool or early primary school, children still don’t have as many responsibilities nor do they receive huge amounts of information which leaves more space in their brains for learning foreign languages.
One of the best indicators of whether a child will be able to speak a second language fluently is the time when they started learning it. Children who started learning a foreign language later in life will often master its grammar rules without difficulty, but they will always differ from children who started learning it at an early age in one thing – pronunciation.
Children who naturally acquire a second language at an early age often have far better pronunciation and a sense of language than their friends who started learning the same language later. The language simply becomes part of their natural environment, and as a result, their command of it later in life is far better.
Many children picked up a language at a very early age simply by watching cartoons, mastering the grammar rules later when they already possessed a developed sense of that language.
So, regardless of whether your child is in kindergarten, preschool or primary school, you need to occasionally work with them in your free time to help them master a foreign language and speak it fluently.
There are many interesting and educational ways to help you achieve this while having fun with your child and doing something useful.
7 Foreign language teaching methods to help your child master a foreign language
1. Learn together
To help your child solve math problems, you need to be able to do arithmetic. If you want to teach them to read and write, you have to be literate yourself. And what about foreign languages, do you have to speak a language in order to help your child acquire it?
Yes and no.
Here’s the secret:
If you have already mastered the basics of the foreign language your child is learning, it will certainly be much easier to help them by learning together with them.
Grab this opportunity to master the basics of a foreign language with your child.
Don’t be embarrassed and don’t hold back: your goal is, first and foremost, to help your child, and you know you are ready to do anything for them. In addition, this is also an opportunity for you to learn the basics of a foreign language, so use it. Think of this as a great opportunity to spend quality time with your child doing something useful and constructive.
We will tell you a secret:
Children learn through observation and models, i.e. they imitate examples from their environment. This way, you will teach your child much more than the knowledge of language – you will imbue them with a positive attitude toward learning.
Namely, when your child sees that learning is something you do with pleasure, they will understand that it is a positive activity people practice all their lives, and that this activity can be fun and will bring them closer to their parents, which is the ultimate desire of every child.
If your child adopts a positive attitude toward learning at an early age, they will cultivate it throughout their life, and this means that you will not have the problem most parents face. You will not have to force your child to study, because they will acquire good work habits and develop a responsibility toward learning from an early age.
2. Play games in a foreign language
When they are young, children learn spontaneously about the world around them – through everyday activities. However, one of the best and most efficient forms of learning is through their favorite activity – play.
Learning through play is a proven method for the acquisition of a foreign language. For example, playing hide-and-seek with children can be a great way to teach them to count in that language. Also, the use of educational technology gives excellent results in foreign language learning at an early age.
You can find a number of interesting games or applications online, such as interactive puzzles that can help your child to learn the names of colors, animals and shapes in different languages. This way, apart from adopting words of a foreign language, the child will simultaneously acquire other important knowledge about the world.
3. Play cartoons and children’s shows in a foreign language
When learning a foreign language, you must take the following into account – there is a big difference between language exposure and language learning.
Usually, when we talk about language learning, we mean learning the grammar rules, memorizing words and drills. However, the most important thing for young children is to be exposed to the sounds, rhythm and melody of a language. And one of the best ways to do it is playing cartoons and children’s shows.
At a young age, children master speech by listening, repeating and associating words with certain actions. This is why many children are able to master a foreign language simply by watching cartoons in that language.
Also, many cartoons and TV shows are designed specifically for language learning where children are introduced to the meaning and pronunciation of words through the adventures of the cartoon heroes.
Exposure to a foreign language from an early age has another great effect on your child. It will make their pronunciation similar or indistinguishable from the pronunciation of a native speaker.
Simply, children are great imitators and adopt new things easily at an early age, including pronunciation, unlike older students who almost always retain their native accent.
4. Singing songs in a foreign language
Children love songs, and melody helps them memorize a number of words, which is why songs are a great memorization and learning technique. Singing songs in the target language is a great and efficient way to help your child master a foreign language, but also a great opportunity to spend some time together and have fun. Find children’s songs on YouTube that your child may like and don’t be afraid to sing along. Before you know it, your child will learn the song by heart.
5. Read books in a foreign language
You will find a number of specialized books for learning different languages from an early age in bookstores. With your help in reading, writing and meaning of words, your child will soon master the meaning and pronunciation of foreign words. You can also read simple bedtime stories in a foreign language. Such stories usually contain common phrases so the child will easily memorize them.
6. Include a foreign language into your daily activities
In early childhood, children absorb everything like sponges, so you don’t need any special aids for learning. Simply, go to the park, shop, or the playroom and play a game by first naming the objects, shapes and colors you encounter in your native language, and then in the target language. This is the best way for a child to learn words of the target language, because they will associate them with the objects and phenomena in their surroundings, and thus they will be able to actually use them when necessary.
This way, in addition to the foreign language, the child will also unconsciously strengthen their native language through play.
7. Learn a foreign language online
If your child has a second language at school, adopting a language in another, less formal way is a welcome distraction from classes, and a desirable and effective learning strategy. Learning a foreign language online is not only fun and often free, but also a good way for your child to further advance their language skills.
The great thing about learning a foreign language online is that it is completely in line with the children’s lifestyle: lessons are short and include tests, and children can solve these tests on their phone anywhere, between other activities. These sites and applications are packed full of engaging and fun activities for kids that will hold your child’s attention much better than traditional classes.
Acquiring a second language broadens our horizons, introduces us to other cultures and represents a valuable tool in our formation as a personality, and in our professional life. Parents have an important role in this process, just like school does. We hope the tips from this text will help you make the foreign language more relatable to your child.