Children learning new languages

Written by kim cotton on . Posted in all, On Love of Learning

spirited mama - alliance francais teacher Chritelle HartIntroducing children to new languages stimulates their minds, helps problem solving skills, broadens their outlook … and it can be a lot of fun too!

Surrounded by a group of lively young children, language teacher Christelle Hart reads out from a book words and actions in French. The children are so engaged they walk up and touch the book. They laugh, show oodles of enthusiasm one minute and the next they are in quiet contemplation. It’s a beautiful thing to behold because they are not only learning a new language and parts of a country’s culture, they’re totally in the moment.

Christelle, who has been conducting French workshops for children in Sydney for about 10 years says learning a new language from an early age broadens their experience and stimulates their brains.

“It encourages them to explore different things and develops their creativity,” she says.

Keeping it real

In Christelle’s classes nothing stays the same for more than a few minutes. There are songs to sing, legumes (vegetables) to identify, short movies to watch, picnic items to draw, colour in and stick on a plate, countries to locate and dancing, lots of dancing.

“Fun and repetition are the key to their learning and it is important to reinforce what they have learnt in class at home with songs, stories and games,” Christelle says.

A mum of two brings her children aged three and four to the French Tales held at Alliance Francaise each week for one hour. Her children, who join a class of up to 10 children, have been learning new languages since they were about one and two years old.
spiritedmama - learning languages“In today’s world they are like global citizens so to be able to travel and work overseas and know the language is essential,” she says.

Her children are learning several languages including their home language Hindi. She suggests play related activities – toys, books, and going to language play groups – as the best way to extend the opportunities for her children to become familiar with different languages. Introducing them to different words and sounds as young as possible has also helped.

“They’re used to learning new languages because they started so early so for them it comes naturally to them,” she says.

Christelle says children are more likely to hear and reproduce sounds correctly before the age of 10 which helps them to develop an authentic accent so there is an argument for introducing children early to new languages.

Tricks of the trade

Christelle says while parents sometimes worry about children confusing words and languages especially when they still haven’t commanded their first language there is no need to. She says children often identify one person with one language and suggests when they talk to that person it should always be in that language.

“It’s quite easy at a young age to learn two or three languages as long as each person interacting with the child sticks to one language,” she says.

Children have a different approach to learning a new language than adults. “They don’t need to refer to their first language and are generally quite happy associating new words with pictures, songs or rhymes,” Christelle says.

The golden rule is not forcing children to take up or speak a language.

“Language has to be a positive thing – it can’t be something you force upon children – if you feel the language doesn’t work give it a rest and start again another time – they have to discover it for themselves,” she says.

spirited mama - learning FrenchTips

Choose the language you think is the most suitable and bring chldren to classes
Watch dvds in the language
Read books with them if possible 
Use resources on the internet – YouTube videos, language sites, etc.
Provide opportunities for children to hear the language – the more natural it is, the easier it is
Find a school that teaches the language because it will provide the written as well as oral language skills.

French language songs and nursery rhymes

www.iletaitunehistoire.com/
www.momes.net/comptines/comptines-chansons.html
www.hugolescargot.com/chansons-pour-enfants.html
comptines.tv/

For more reasons why introducing a new language to you child can be a good thing see the article Benefits of learning a new language, which I edited for the parent website School A to Z.

Linking in with Jess @ IBOT

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Comments (10)

  • Twitchy

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    I love the idea of kids learning new languages. My Miss6 learns Japanese at school and loves it. I’m pretty annoyed they didn’t teach other languages in primary school when I was that age. What a lost opportunity! #teamIBOT

    Reply

    • Kim

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      Mmmm we had the chance but it wasn’t really explained how handy or useful it would be … I love learning about new cultures, languages, if i had my time over I think i’d would have studied languages from as early as possible.

      Reply

  • EssentiallyJess

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    My kids have learnt a few things at school, but not very indepth.
    My problem is always, what language should they learn? There are so many of them!

    Reply

    • Kim

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      Haha true, guess it’s a matter of going with your heart or choosing the one that is going to be most useful. Even just learning a language for a while is good for stimulating those brain cells in different ways – you can’t go wrong with any approach really. x

      Reply

  • Lucy @ Bake Play Smile

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    The kids at my school learn Indonesian and it absolutely fascinates me that they can pick it up so easily! Childhood really is the prime time to learn a language!! 🙂

    Reply

    • Kim

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      Wow that’s really cool Lucy. I love the Indonesian language – that and French are the two I hope to speak before I reach my twilight years 🙂

      Reply

  • Emily @ Have A Laugh On Me

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    I think maybe I should get my kids interested in another language, it really will put them in good stead for later in life, although Mandarin is what I’ll be pushing, or Spanish. I tried to learn French at high school, WOWSERS so hard, but I suppose I was old and already had formed opinions, things are harder to learn when you get old!!!!!!! x

    Reply

    • Kim

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      Harder or we’re just preoccupied with our kids and all the other things in our lives. I’m still very keen to learn (in fact I learnt a few things at the French Tales 🙂

      Reply

  • Rita @ The Crafty Expat

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    Very interesting article Kim. I really would like to teach my future children at least one other language which will be French. I was lucky enough to be taught French and Arabic by my parents when I was a kid and I think this is the best thing.

    Reply

    • Kim

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      Hi Rita I was in France and Jordan at Christmas – it would have been awesome to have you as my travelling companion 🙂 My little one is slowly getting used to the idea of French – although it’s taken her five years just to come around … hopefully by the time she’s 20 she can speak it reasonably well. A bientot!

      Reply

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