Learning another language is not just for adults who want to travel. When children learn another language they improve their vocabulary and cognitive ability, so it is no wonder many parents are now starting their kids off young. Even just learning a few words can be useful. There are many fun and easy ways to introduce a child to a different language. Here are a variety of resources for tiny tots to preteens.
Dictionaries: Picture dictionaries are a great place to start. Options such as the Usborne First Thousand Words books are picture dictionaries that go over basics such as “cat” and “dog” in whatever language you want. They won’t help with learning to construct sentences or understanding speech, but they are handy for vocabulary.
DVD’S/ Muzzy: These are both great ways to introduce kids to a second language. Muzzy is also available on-line but we do have the DVD/booklet sets at the library. Other videos such as this Nature for Kids Beginning Spanish help kids learn while entertaining them. Also, many children’s DVDs have at least one dubbed language that can be turned on. If the child has a favorite movie, such as Frozen, changing the language to Spanish or French is a fun way to learn.
Books in a foreign language: If the child (or adult) has enough basics under their belt then they can try and read a simple story. Picture books work best but again it depends on their level of language knowledge. Dual language books are also phenomenal because they allow you to compare the text and pick up any new words without having to get out the dictionary. If we don’t have the type of book they need, then have them check out the international children’s digital library (under on-line resources).
Story time: A number of branches at SPL have story time in a different language. They include Spanish, Somali, Mandarin, and Vietnamese right now. Even if the child doesn’t know much of the language they can still enjoy the atmosphere and will pick up bits and pieces pretty quickly.
International Children’s Digital Library– Great resources! Books from around the world right on your computer. The layout of the site is a little funky and finding the right reading level in the language you want can be tricky but it is worth a try. It is free and they are doing their best to have a wide selection.
PressReader (formerly PressDisplay) and AllYouCanRead are digital magazine sites that have newspapers and magazine from around the world. There are kids magazines available but you might have to do some digging to find them. Even if the child’s reading and/or language skills are rudimentary they can still enjoy magazines which can have comics or short articles.
Apps and website– There are boundless opportunities for kids to learn a language online. BBC Language has certain sections just for kids with audio clips, which is really helpful. A quick Google search will pull up sites such as chinese4kids.net. Some are better than others but it is worth trying. And don’t forget YouTube or other video sites. You can watch clips in the language you want to learn but I would caution you to review the content first.
If you are interested in learning more about how and why to raise a bilingual child then we have a number of books including Raising a Bilingual Child by Barbara Zurer Pearson, 7 steps to raising a bilingual child by Naomi Steiner or The Bilingual Edge by Kendall King.
~posted by Selby G.