Instilling a Love for Language

Many families desire for their children to learn a second language. In the case of bilingual families, parents may hope for their children to maintain their heritage language. This ambition comes from a good place, but how we introduce and motivate children to learn/maintain a language matters! It is not simply enough to say, “It would be good for you to know this.” Motivation needs to come from a place of curiosity, exploration, and a love for learning. Below I lay out five at-home tips for instilling this love and curiosity for language in your home. (I focus on Spanish, but this can be replicated with any language!)

Photo by Perry Grone, Guatemala

1. Music: When cooking or cleaning, put on a playlist with songs in the target language. After listening to the same songs a few weeks in a row, you may start singing little chunks of the lyrics. Here are some of my favorite Spanish-speaking artists whose music can be enjoyed by children!

2. Cuisine: Try out a new restaurant that has a menu in Spanish. Cook a new dish at home and learn how to say the name or a few ingredients in Spanish. Here are some ideas below!

3. Conversation & Connection: With the bits of language that you do know, USE THEM! This is so important. If you meet someone who speaks the target language, say hello! Take the opportunity to practice, because most people enjoy connecting in their native language. And if children experience small successes in communication, they will be inspired to continue learning and taking risks. If you as a parent speak the target language and you find it hard to speak it with your children, then set aside one night a week where you ONLY speak that language. Make it fun, make it a challenge! 

4. Word of the Week: Choose a word from a Spanish-speaking country and see how many times you can use it throughout the week at home. Here is an article with words and expressions that will have you sounding like a Spaniard! You can find similar blog posts from any country.

5. Travel: The ultimate way to foster a love for language and culture is through travel. Planning your next family vacation, why not make it to a Spanish-speaking country? Young children soak up language like a sponge, and how better to do that than through immersion?

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