Wednesday, July 19, 2006

What can parents do to help?

FL-TEACH, a foreign language teacher's listserv that I belong to, has recently been discussing how teachers can help parents help their kids learn languages. Here are a few ideas from the members:

Kate Chan, a Spanish teacher, recommends these techniques to help your child learn Spanish (which can be applied to any foreign language) and some additional study tips.

Joanna Kotecki writes: "I've told parents that they don't have to know the [second] language in order to be able to help their children. In order to review grammar, the parent can say the word in English and have the child give them the word in [the second language]. The parent should be able to tell immediately whether or not the child knows that vocab word. Also, I've told the parents to have their children try to explain the grammar concepts to them; after all, in order to be able to explain something, you must 'own' it first. "

David Graham pulled some salient ideas out of the article “Promoting a Language Proficient Society: What You Can Do” (ERIC Clearinghouse on Languages and Linguistics):

• Expose your children to people from varied language and cultural backgrounds.
• Participate in events where language and cultural diversity are celebrated.
• If you speak a language other than English, use it with your children.
• Speak positively to your children about the value of learning another language.
• Provide videos, music, and books in other languages.
• Send your children to summer language camps [I recommend Concordia Language Villages--see post below]. For older children, consider programs in which they can study languages abroad.
• Explore having an exchange student from another country in your home.
• Investigate opportunities for formal language study for your children, beginning as early as preschool and extending through their high school years.
• Reinforce existing language programs by expressing support for them to local, state, and national representatives.
• If your child is participating in a language program, talk to the teacher about what you can do at home to reinforce the learning that takes place in the classroom.
• If your child's school does not have a language program, talk with other parents, PTA members, and the principal about getting one started.

If anyone else has ideas about how parents can help kids learn languages, even if the parents don't speak the language themselves, please click on "post a comment" below to share with us!


  1. I always wanted to raise my kids speaking Spanish, which I studied for 10 years, but now I have ended up in Brasil, where my son speaks Portuguese and I am forced to use English, lest he doesn't learn it at all.

    He does not speak English, but he seems to understand it. The only words he uses, which are very few, are in Portuguese.

  2. AkuTyger,

    I'd love to hear more about your son and your process of teaching him English! How old is he? Does anyone else in your household speak English with him? What techinques or approaches seem to work best? Email at babybilingual (at) gmail (dot) com if you'd like me to profile you on my blog!

  3. Sarah - Great post! I wanted to let you know that my site has changed formats a bit and the link you've posted is soon-to-be-gone. Please update your links for these to pages:

    * Study Tips for Learning a Foreign Language

    * How to Help Someone Learn Spanish

  4. Here's another great resource, a brochure from the Center for Applied Linguistics:

  5. Thanks, Kate--the links have been updated as of 9/19.