Teaching a Foreign Language to Young Children
One of the benefits of children learning foreign language at an early age is that young children's brains are forming neural connections and are developmentally at their best for introducing a foreign language. It's much easier for young children to become fluent in another language than it is for older children and adults. Learning a foreign language at an early age can also help children become better at problem solving, critical thinking, and multitasking among other cognitive benefits.
Even though the benefits of children learning a second language have been highly researched, there's not a concrete answer on how to teach a child a foreign language. Early foreign language education is an increasingly popular topic that has not been fully explored by many schools and centers in the United States. However, there are a few tips you should keep in mind when teaching a foreign language to young children.
- Don't "teach" young children a foreign language. You want to let young children pick up the language naturally through conversation and by using context clues.
- Switch one word out at a time. When you're talking (or reading) to children, try to switch out one word in a sentence for a word in a different language. Think of this as a word-by-word approach to helping children learn a foreign language.
- Read bilingual books to young children. By reading books that have words in English and another language, you can help children learn their own language while also learning the equivalent in a foreign language.
- Play bilingual music in the learning environment. Playing bilingual music or music in another language is a great way for young children to pick up on the meaning of words by using context clues. It's also a great way for children to work on their listening and critical thinking skills.
Once young children have started to learn how to read, try labeling items with sticky notes that contain the written word for each item in Spanish or another foreign language. For a variety of materials that can help with teaching kids a foreign language, shop our selection of bilingual and Spanish children's books and the bilingual category of our Language and Literacy section.
Editorial Note: At Kaplan Early Learning Company, we value diversity and use the term "foreign language" to refer to a language that is native to another country and is not indigenous in the country where someone lives