5 Tips For Helping Your Child Learn A New Language

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The post below is a guest post written by Tim Wenger at Live Lingua.

You have a young child and naturally, you want to give them the best opportunities to succeed in life. As society becomes more global and connected (you’re reading this article online, after all), getting ahead increasingly means instilling a global mindset in your child.

One of the best ways to do this is to raise them as a bilingual child. Doing this, however, can present quite a challenge. How am I supposed to teach my kid a new language, when we only speak one language at home?

The importance of learning a foreign language is clear — when it comes to job or educational opportunities, few skills are more desired. What’s not always so straightforward, however, is how to motivate your kids to learn a second language so they can take advantage of those opportunities.

And as you’ve undoubtedly learned, when it comes to children, you certain can’t force them to learn something. They have to  In short, they have to want to learn a second language.

Here are five actionable tips you can implement to steer them in the right direction.

Make language learning fun

Involve activities that kids already gravitate to, like television and movies. Get some DVDs (with subtitles) or watch cartoons online. This is an easy and fun way to have an idea of the sound and structure of the language you are working on, and to help your child become accustomed to hearing it spoken out loud. 

When watching the video with them, pause after a simple sentence and repeat it. The best way to find cartoons, movies, and other programming is to do a quick Google search. Additionally, visit your local library — it will generally have a foreign language movie sections with at least a few flicks for kids.

You might even consider getting them a Roybi Robot. These are a great way for kids to learn languages as well as STEM skills.

When the kids don’t feel like they’re doing difficult work, they’ll learn without even realizing!

Now, I know what you’re thinking:

Hah!  Good luck keeping my toddler’s attention with anything other than what they’re immediately focused on.

And you’d be right!  But that’s where relevancy comes into play. We know that what’s considered fun and interesting differs as we grow, so go ahead and do a little detective work:

Who does your child admire, or act as during playtime?

Uncover their interests and you unlock the key to motivating them to learn a second language!


Lead by example

Think back to when you were a kid. Did you want to do something hard, especially when your parents were telling you that you had to? And how often were you truly thinking about gaining an upper hand in a tough job market between playdates?

The answers are probably No, I didn’t and Never.

Kids these days are no different, so you’ve got to set the example and demonstrate the benefits of learning a new language for them like a motivational ninja.

Read to them as much as possible

This tip is super important. That’s why it’s last — so we can allow it some extra space to really stretch out.

When learning a new language, you’ll learn very quickly that a very good dictionary is your best friend.

I bet you know which is the easiest way to build up your vocabulary day after day: looking up words in a dictionary. Nonetheless, we need a good vocabulary. Because I need to make more effort, I prefer a printed version dictionary.

Of course, it is up to you. I suggest you buy one from the best publishing houses in languages field such as Oxford, Zanicchelli (for Italian), Cambridge, Real Academia Espanola (for Spanish), La Rousse (for French).

As you read to your child, have them interact with you by repeating each word or phrase. This will help them to remember it later. With time and practice, your kiddo will build a personal library of terms in the language that you two are working on.

And if you haven’t learned a second language yourself, don’t worry!  Just show your kids that you’re willing to put forth the effort to learn along with them and get them excited about the process. Your kids will be motivated to learn a second language through imitation after seeing the doors it can open in education and work abroad!

If You Can’t Bring Your Kids to the Language, Bring the Language to Your Kids!

I get it. Traveling isn’t always possible with young kids and even if it were, our busy schedules may not allow it. This means that trips to a different country to immerse your kids in a second language might not be feasible.

But there are a bunch of other options to bring the language and culture to you!

Joining or forming a local language exchange are great ways to meet other motivated learners and share your culture.  You could also consider hosting an exchange student, as it’s no secret that kids think this is cool! I remember our intense jealousy when one kid in my friend group had a Spanish exchange student living with him.  Plus, it’s a two-for-one:

The older exchange student serves as a role model and an advocate for learning a second language to study and work abroad while also encouraging your kids to practice the language together!


Whatever your child’s interests and whatever your budget, you can figure out how to motivate your kids to learn a second language.  Start by listening to what interests them-what gets them excited. Follow up by setting a good example for them to imitate, and then remind them of the doors that knowing a second language can open in education or work abroad!

To recap here, if taking a family trip doesn’t work for you right now, then immerse them in a language right in your hometown.  When you present the learning process to them in a fun way and show excitement yourself, you’ll have no problem motivating your kids to learn a second language!

Howard is a co-founder of Smart Parent Advice. When he isn't spending time with his wife, Kristin, or his two children, he can often be found running around on the tennis court.