Overcoming Challenges to Teaching Kids a Second Language

Overcoming Challenges to Teaching Kids a Second Language

Teaching your child a second language is incredibly rewarding, but, like many other things, it comes with its own set of unique challenges.

Like with other aspects of parenting, you may encounter certain obstacles when attempting to teach your child multiple languages. However, being aware of these potential challenges and knowing how to overcome them before they happen can prepare you, making your experience more pleasant and stress-free.

Let’s break down some of the most common challenges and settle some concerns you may have along the way.

Not Knowing When or Where to Start

This is one of the biggest obstacles that parents tend to face when it comes to teaching their child a second language. No age is too young to start teaching your child a second language. In fact, some parents start as soon as their child is born. This is because children tend to develop and absorb language most in the first three years of life.

If you have an older child, it doesn’t mean you’ve waited too long either. Children can start learning a second language at any age and there is no wrong way to start! 

Books are one of the most common and helpful methods to start introducing a second language to kids– you’ll be surprised by how much consistent exposure and repetition can help kids learn.

Remember, at the end of the day, learning a second language should be fun for your child—and for you. While there are going to be challenges along the way, this should be an enjoyable experience for you, your child and the entire family. Using tools that facilitate the learning process and make it a pleasant family experience can alleviate some of the pressure parents may feel when trying to teach a language. 

 

Not Being Bilingual Yourself

Many parents assume that because they themselves are not completely fluent in the target language, they cannot teach their children how to speak that language. That said, rest assured that you can teach your child this target language even if you are not fluent yourself. In this day and age, there are so many resources that you can use to support you in this journey such as books, apps, classes, music and more! Even something as simple as setting up playdates with children who speak the target language can provide your child with exposure and serve as a learning opportunity. Remember, you don’t need to be fluent to teach your child a second language, you just need to provide opportunities for learning and exposure.

Lack of Interest From Your Child

The reality is, some children just aren’t interested in learning a second language. As most parents know, there are times when children just don’t want to do certain things. Typically, that includes doing their homework or eating their vegetables, but it may also include learning a second language. Many times, children gravitate more naturally to the dominant language because it is what they hear more often.

If this happens, it doesn’t mean that it’s time to throw in the towel. Just like you would continue to expose your child to an unwanted vegetable, continuing to provide enjoyable exposure opportunities for language learning is key. There are plenty of ways to make learning a second language fun and meaningful—just give your little one reasons to enjoy speaking in their second language. This can be anything from reading a recipe as you make cookies together, playing with friends in the target language, or reading a book with dad in the secondary language. Learning dual languages doesn’t have to feel like homework; it should be fun!

Bilingual parenting is a journey, and while you will undoubtedly face roadblocks, they will only make the journey that much more rewarding. The important thing is to focus, stay the course, and like with any other skill, give your child plenty of opportunities to practice!