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Essential Tips for Teaching Kids a Foreign Language

by Brenda Berg

One of the greatest skills you can teach a child is to become bilingual. Not only will this open an endless amount of opportunities for them now and later in life, it can also be immensely rewarding for you. However, teaching a child a new language isn’t the easiest task in the world and you’re bound to come face to face with several problems along the way.

To help minimise the risk of these problems arising, here is my top ten list of tips and tools to give you the best foundation and opportunities to help make your learning project a success story.

Make Sure You’re Ready

Make sure, before you start teaching that you’re ready to commit to this task. There’s no point in starting and a couple of weeks later just dismissing the project. As stated above, this project is going to be one that you must work for in order to get results and it’s unfair to the child to put them through a few weeks if you’re not willing to go the whole way.

Be Prepared

Ensuring that you’re organized and prepared for every lesson is the key to success. Invest time before you start in gathering a few weeks’ worth of materials. By being on top of your game, you can be sure that you’re ready for anything, allowing you to draw all your focus into driving and motivating your class, rather than being stuck on the spot trying to think of ideas on how to proceed.

Keep the Children Engaged

One of the most important rules to remember is to keep the children engaged at all times. Bored children don’t feel inspired to learn and your words will end up falling on deaf ears. Try to find a balance of solo work, group project work and whole class discussions.

Martin Lynch, a language specialist at Write my essay adds, “Language can be one of the most frustrating subjects for a child to learn. Depending on what language you’re teaching, there are so many different guidelines and rules and it can be irritating to a child who can’t quite grasp it. Stay positive and encourage them to move forward.”

Prepare for Parents

The downside to teaching children over adult learners is the fact that you’ll also have to deal with parents. Some parents may see the benefits of learning another language whereas some parents will not. Be open about your goals and targets for the school year and speak honestly about the learning developments in every child.

Kelly Lane, parents and writing coordinator for Resumention, explains, “As a parent and a writer who deals with multiple languages every single day, I understand the need to language as a skill and couldn’t be more encouraging when it comes to my child learning as many languages as possible. However, I fully understand that many parents may see it as a waste of time. Try to explain positively as possible the benefits of their child learning another language and how it could open so many doors for them in later life, especially since the world is becoming such a highly diverse place.”

Use Quizzes and Games

By adding games and other fun, educational activities to your classes, not only are you engaging your students, you’re also actively encouraging them to take control of their own learning, giving them a chance to prove to themselves what they know and can consequently reward themselves.

If you’re stuck for ideas, one of the simplest ways is creating a game where you give your children a basic sentence. For example, I like pizza. Now get your children to go away and try and extend that sentence to the longest sentence possible using words that they have learned in your lessons. You can use tools such as Easy Word Count to monitor the word length! The longest sentence wins!

Implement Multimedia

Videos, presentations, flashcards, small toys, puppets, dice, puzzles, songs, audio clips, the list goes on. There is so much language based learning material at your disposal, especially online, there’s no reason why you can’t use it all to benefit your classes. Find a good balance in your class. Maybe half an hour of teaching and then half an hour of games where they can use their newly taught words to have fun whilst drilling in the words!

Ken Sharp, a translator for Best Australian Writers, explains, “I remember when I was at school that we had such a great language teacher, it’s probably what made me love languages so much that I followed it as a career! She used to split the lessons into games and learning. Of course, the learning part was so boring, but in hindsight, it didn’t feel like we were learning for more than ten minutes and the rest of the lesson was playing games! I used to love those lessons!”

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