Using Routines for Learning a Second Language
Teaching your child a second language is no doubt a rewarding, yet long term effort. While it doesn’t happen overnight, small actions over time will gradually lead to noticeable results. That’s where routines come into play! We all have them, need them and thrive on them–so why not use them to our advantage when it comes to the language practice that our little ones so greatly need to truly acquire a second language?!
Incorporating language learning into routines is one of the best ways to ensure that your little one is getting the practice that he or she needs! We might dare say that it’s the best kept secret when it comes to sneaking bilingualism exposure into busy schedules. While you may not have too much free time to strictly dedicate to language-learning activities, everyone can definitely use existing routines and daily activities to incorporate some easy language practice!
Here are our favorite routines to enhance with language learning so that your little one is consistently given plenty of opportunities for exposure:
Who doesn’t love a good conversation during mealtime? Mealtime can be a great time to practice your target language because there’s so many different ways and opportunities to sneak in those new vocabulary words. A child has several meals and snacks a day which provides plenty of moments where you, or any caregiver, could stir up conversation in the target language or even offer a bilingual children's book, ideally a sound book, to read while food is being prepared and served.
Some of the ways you can initiate conversation and reinforce the target language is by narrating what you and your child are doing (preparing the food, eating it, playing with it) talking about the actual foods being eaten (their names, colors, textures), or simply engaging in normal conversation (asking how the day is going, how the weather outside is) in the target language. If your child is a little older, involving him or her in the preparation or cooking process is a great activity that can also help practice new or familiar words as you discuss the ingredient names and steps in the process.
Bedtime is typically a time that parents set aside to bond with their little ones before putting them to sleep. A bedtime routine in the target language can help create a consistent daily exposure for your child in the target language. While you can certainly alternate between languages, making sure the target language is predominantly spoken is a great way to guarantee your little one is getting his or her daily dose of bilingual language learning.
There are many ways you can incorporate language practice in your bedtime routine with your little one, the most important one being to start a dialogue in the target language whenever you can during your bedtime routine steps! This can also mean introducing a few words at a time as you engage in meaningful conversation. Have a conversation about your surroundings as you introduce or practice new words. For example, bath time might be a great time to point out the temperature of the water, describe how the water splashes, or talk about the fun toys in the bath as you play. As you choose a pajama together, you can also try discussing the different pajama prints and relate them to things your little one enjoys. Remember, focusing on aspects your child is genuinely interested in and elaborating upon their comments is important as language learning is best facilitated through meaningful interactions. Reading engaging bilingual books for kids before bed is also an amazing way to initiate a dialogue as you not only read the story, but also look at the images together and elaborate upon them in your own words. Even singing along to musical books and learning popular nursery rhymes in the target language can be very helpful in reinforcing new words. The more you read the book, the more your little one will grasp the words and concepts.
Play time or screen time
Play time, which as most parents know, many times turns into screen time, is a necessary and exciting part of a child’s day, making it the perfect time to include activities that provide exposure to the target language. During this time, you can hand your child bilingual books with sound that they can enjoy, play songs in the target language or set up a bilingual playdate. If you have the time to take a more hands-on approach in language practice during playtime, then you can chime in and read children's sound books alongside your child or sing a song as you act out the motions together, making the meaning of the words clearer. When it comes to screen time, you can always set it to the target language.
As you can tell, daily routines provide endless opportunities to continue to help children become little bilingual language ninjas! It doesn’t need to consist of complicated or time-consuming activities, just using the valuable time during routines to continue to hone children’s language skills. Sometimes, simply observing a child and his or her interests opens a door of opportunity to elaborate upon them and make them focal points in your language practice efforts!