As technology grows more advanced, the world is figuratively becoming smaller and smaller. Learning a foreign language is rapidly becoming as mainstream as studying any other major subject.
As beneficial as learning a new language is, it can be difficult for some children to grasp why learning a foreign language is necessary. Others may struggle with it because they’re simply not interested enough to retain any information that is essential in maintaining fluency and understanding.
Recently, I’ve really come to recognize how beneficial foreign language learning can be, so I’ve actually had my “middles” practicing German for the past several months. As much as they genuinely enjoy learning this language, however, retention has really been a problem for them.
After racking my brain for a solution, I discovered that the key to overcoming obstacles like this can be as simple as coming up with creative supplements to bring excitement and significance into an otherwise arduous subject area.
If your children are experiencing a barrier to foreign language learning like mine were, here are ten suggestions that may help them to find the relevance and, quite possibly, the fun that learning a new language can bring:
10 Effective Ways to Supplement Foreign Language Learning
1. Visit a neighborhood, restaurant, or other location which represents a taste of what the culture is actually like.
While visiting the chosen country would be ideal, not everyone is able to do that. (Raising my hand here!) Luckily, there are so many options available to experience different cultures, such as: restaurants, ethnic neighborhoods (Chinatown is a great example), museums, and folk festivals like Oktoberfest.
2. Get to know someone who is a native speaker.
If you live in a culturally diverse neighborhood, join your kids and get to know those around you. Perhaps someone at your church, co-op, or even grocery store hails from a nation which speaks the language your kids have been learning.
One of the best ways to acquire a new language is to learn it from a native speaker. Many people would be delighted to find someone who is interested in their language and culture. Take advantage of that and ask them for tips on pronunciation and common phrases. If you feel comfortable, ask them to speak to you and your children in their language so that your children can get a feel for it and have the opportunity to practice what they’ve learned.
3. Study the cultural traditions of your chosen country.
The world is a fascinating place, and people are no exception. Take some time to study traditional clothing, customs, folklore, and music. Compare these traditions to what society where you live is like today. How have these traditions changed over the years? Remained the same?
4. Visit an ethnic restaurant or learn how to prepare a native dish.
Food is always a wonderful memory maker. Invite some family or friends over and have your kids prepare a meal wearing the traditional clothing of their area of interest. Play relevant background music and have your kids recite a poem or legend they’ve learned. Be sure to let them use a few phrases they want to share or need to practice.
5. Learn how to write letters and characters that are used in the country of your children’s studies.
Some countries have their own set of writing characters which are different from the letters used in English. In Japan, there are two sets of writing characters. China, Russia, and the Hebrew language are other examples of cultures with a completely different writing style.
My 18 year old daughter taught herself how to read and write both sets of Japanese characters. Why? So she could read manga, which brings us to #6…
6. Explore popular cultural trends and let your children follow those that interest them.
Anime and manga are all the rage right now, and they are absolutely perfect for anyone studying the Japanese language. Find out what’s trending in the countries your kids have chosen to study. They just may find something that sparks their interest and, as a bonus, enhances their learning.
7. Encourage your children to study, collect, or create artwork inspired by the culture they’re studying.
Following the anime and manga train of thought, anime style artwork is another popular cultural trend. Research art styles or possibly the history of art in your country of choice. If your kids are budding artists, have them try recreating pieces that really speak to them. In addition, they could also attempt to produce original artwork utilizing the styles they’ve picked up from their studies.
8. Research famous people from the past and present.
Who were some of the heroes of your chosen country? Traitors? Inventors? Entrepreneurs? Learning about specific people is a great way to bring meaning to a sometimes abstract subject.
9. Study the geography.
While it’s important for your kids to be able to locate the regions in which their foreign language is spoken, geography is so much more than that. Help them to learn about the terrain, landmarks, and weather patterns. All of these topics can help them to gain an understanding of the people as a whole and why they live as they do.
10. Learn about the cultural history and government structure.
What type of government does their chosen country have? Is it a monarchy? Dictatorship? Democracy? Oligarchy? Theocracy? What hardships have these people had to endure? How did they get to where they are today? Knowing the history of the place your children are studying is crucial to finding relevance and compassion, which are vital to accomplishing true mastery of the subject.
What about you? How do you boost foreign language learning in your home? Leave a comment below!