Is your toddler learning to piece together two and three words to form sentences? Is your four-year-old expanding her vocabulary daily? Has your rising kindergartener started to recognize the alphabet and spell her name? Now is the time to consider introducing a foreign language to your eager learners.
Beyond the ability to communicate and engage with a broader, more diverse population, there is great value in teaching your children a second language sooner rather than later. Research studies have shown that bi- or multi-lingual children may develop advanced problem-solving and reasoning skills, improved memory and cognitive flexibility, and a broader view of the numerous cultures that make up the world.
“Exposure to different languages and cultures at a young age is an important step toward helping our children become successful citizens of an increasingly connected world,” said Green Magnet Elementary Principal Lisa Brown.
Interested in helping your children get a leg up on the bilingual bandwagon? You can seek out language immersion preschools or specialized programs like the one at Green Magnet Elementary, and you can also introduce a new language to them at home. There are a variety of ways you can incorporate language learning into their daily routines, even if you will be learning it right along with them.
Get started on dual language learning in your home with these easy tips:
Be a label maker
Let your children see the words that correspond to the various items in your home by labeling them. Label the door, a window, the light switch, a lamp, the kitchen table, their favorite toys, anything really, with the words in the new language you are teaching. Teach them the words for each and ask them to say the words aloud when they use each of the items.
Look and listen
Turn on the tube to watch an age appropriate TV show or movie in the target language you are teaching. Let your children listen to their favorite songs in the new language—a quick Internet search will pull up an array of options.
Introduce and immerse
Talk to your children about the target culture you’re studying. Teach them about customs and holidays that differ from their own. Take them out to eat at a restaurant that serves that culture’s cuisine and let them see the menu and the names of the dishes they choose to eat–even better, empower them to order their dishes in your target language.
Grow through games
Children like to play, so turn their language learning into a game. Create a matching game for your little ones to play. Pick a category like food, clothes, furniture, you name it, and make a vocabulary list of corresponding words. Write those words on sticky notes and challenge your children to seek out and put the notes on the correct items. Bingo is another great game that you can easily turn into a learning adventure. Simply swap out the numbers for the vocabulary words they are working on that week.
Meet and greet
¡Hola! Nĭ Hăo! Teach your children greetings and manners in the target foreign language. Ask them to use these words and phrases in their everyday conversations and interactions. The continued use and repetition will enable them to become more comfortable with the words.
Mold through modeling
Show your children the importance of learning a new language by joining them in the studying fun. Take part in the various tasks you assign them. Demonstrate your excitement for growing your vocabulary along with them. Your commitment to learning will boost their willingness to do the same.
“Young children learn best when they are having fun,” said Cesar Gonzalez, a native Spanish speaker and World Languages teacher at Green Magnet Elementary. “Tap into your children’s playful nature to engage their mind in the language learning process. You can turn everyday activities like making a recipe or grocery shopping into teachable moments.”
Wake County Public School System’s Green Magnet Elementary School offers a specialized theme of Leadership and World Languages featuring daily Spanish or Mandarin Chinese instruction for all students. The unique program incorporates a collaborative environment that empowers students to think critically and creatively and communicate more effectively.
Parents interested in learning more about Green Leadership and World Languages Magnet Elementary School and the unique magnet theme it offers may schedule a school tour or contact Magnet Coordinator Tricia Seymour at (919) 431-8141, ext. 22631, for further information. The school is located at 5307 Six Forks Road in Raleigh. Visit Wake County Public School System’s Magnet Programs website at www.wcpss.net/magnet for more information about all of its magnet schools and themes and enrollment opportunities.