Learning languages: For children to learn a language we need to stick to it!

Learning languages is finally getting some recognition in primary schools with the introduction of compulsory languages at Key Stage 2 from September.

However, this is a very lose arrangement and the specifications of what this means are left very open for schools to interpret. The new framework for languages mentions being able to communicate and write, understand the grammar, speaking with good pronunciation and makes a strong point for authentic material being used. There isn’t much guidance or resources out there but schools are doing what they can and it is a step in the right direction. multilingual color copy LR

Having taught languages for years now and having spoken to lots of parents since we started Ole Kids – Spanish for children, I have come to the conclusion that the most important thing in language learning is some degree of commitment to a language.

It is about starting early if that is possible but more importantly it is about sticking to it! So the best thing to do is to really stop and think what languages we can commit to in a long term basis. Find a language your child is interested in because of a cartoon they watch, a friend they play with or a book they like.. Otherwise think of a language you know a bit of or want to learn too, if there is a family member or a friend of the family who speaks it and will help keep it up or if you tend to go to a particular place on holiday chose that language.

Whatever it is it has to be sustainable! The more situations yearly you can provide to practise a language the better.
That is why in Ole Kids we feel that starting early in a small group is a great solution since you get to meet and spend time with other families who are also wanting to keep the Spanish up and just that link will make it more possible to keep the language up.

Reading to them in the other language is essential and amazing to do. So do learn the language yourself if you don’t know it, if you make it a family project it is more likely to stick.

By you reading to them they will eventually learn to read themselves and that will be really satisfying, especially when it is from English to Spanish. I know I am biased but the children find it so easy to apply their English reading skills to Spanish since vowels just have one possible sound! They practically can teach themselves to read Spanish books once they know the basic sounds and they feel so proud of themselves! I have seen it first hand and it is a brilliant gift to give a child that opportunity.

And once the reading and writing is set they are off and away! Since then they can start to learn independently. When a baby is one and you start to think of languages all this sounds so far off but it arrives soon enough and you can have a strong basis by then for them to feel proud of the extra knowledge they have.

Of course it is great to remember all the studies that show what a workout it is for the brain to cope with two languages at once and how in the long run it can help develop children’s cognitive skills and even protect the brain from Alzheimer!

But on a day to day basis languages are an amazing tool to bring people together, make situations better understood and always help us see that there are at least two ways of seeing life. And that is well worth learning as early as possible!

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