Motivate your child to learn a foreign language

Motivate your child to learn a foreign language Family Holiday by John Jack Rice

This article was written by Global Graduates, published on 18th August 2011 and has been read 5298 times.

As the job market gets increasingly tougher, each job requires a decent set of skills (independent thought, adaptability, critical thinking, conference speaking), usually accompanied with a foreign language. How can you, as a parent, motivate your child to keep up with their language learning, in order to help them get a leg up on the job market later on? Here are a few pointers, from parents and teachers.

1) Get them to learn by default

If you are intent on getting your child to speak another language, you need to show them by imitation. If they see you reading up on foreign cultures, picking up another language and introducing it into your family home (food, TV, radio, magazines etc), it will leave an imprint on them. Most students studying Modern Languages at university have done so because of their upbringing: a foreign language is spoken at home, holidays have been spent abroad, a foreign family friend used to drop by on a regular basis. 

2) Highlight the advantages of learning a language

In this day and age, it’s highly likely your child may uproot and live abroad, either as part of his/her degree or as a career choice. It’s important you open their mind to travel, living in another country and other cultures. Sending your child to study abroad can be a fantastic opportunity to give them a taste of another language - grants are available for young and old. Taking on a foreign student could also boost your chances to see your child improve his language skills, and make foreign friends in the process. Remind your child that travelling abroad requires some knowledge of language and culture; if possible, try and organise a family holiday and bring a small phrasebook with you. Get your child to practise but also to immerse him or herself in the culture by suggesting activities for them to take on, during your stay. Speaking another language is a must on any CV these days, even if it’s only conversational French, for example. 

3) Inspire your child to learn and live the culture

There are many of inexpensive ways to learn a language - tune into foreign radio, read foreign newspapers and magazines, watch foreign channels. You can easily rent films and either use foreign subtitles or watch it in another language. Try to accommodate your child’s tastes, too: if they’re a rock fan, find out about rock bands across the globe; similarly, if they have a passion for sports, buy them a magazine on the subject, in another language. If you live in a big city, chances are there will be an institute or an embassy offering cultural events and meet-ups; encourage your child to go to such events, with you or with friends. Enrolling your child onto a language course will mean he/she will be able to make some friends whilst learning about the culture - classroom teaching is usually not enough, if you want your child to speak fluently. 

Research your family history - you may find a distant relative to have some link with the language you are keen to have your child study. This may spark an interest in them and they may want to follow up by learning more about their roots, and in the process, a foreign culture. If you are religious, it might be a good idea to try out a service in your chosen language, once a month, too. 

Of course, holidays or holiday camps are very helpful when it comes to animating your child to speak another language. You don’t necessarily have to travel very far, either, with plenty of holiday to Europe offering cheaper fares, if booked last minute. You could also decide to book a holiday around activities: if you’re family is into mountain-climbing, why not holiday to the Alps or the Pyrenees to practise your French and Spanish in the process? Is food big on the agenda in your family home? Why not take a brief tour around Italy, to savour some delicacies! 

Regardless of your budget, there are countless activities on offer for your children, to inspire them to learn languages - whether for fun, for travel or for their future careers. Scour the net and the local ads, offer a language exchange between your child and a foreign student, pull a few strings and you’ll have your child speaking the lingo in no time at all!

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