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Thursday, 17 August 2017

How to Supplement Your Child's Language Classes at Home


Many multilingual children attend language classes at weekends or after school. These can be a great way for them to improve their language skills, converse with others who speak the same languages as them, interact with children of the same multicultural background and feel part of the community. However, if you think attending one language class a week is enough for your child, you are mistaken. Once a week is simply not enough and I explored the pros and cons of weekend language schools in a recent article.




Learning a minority language (a language which is not spoken by the larger community) takes a lot of time, effort and determination. While language schools can be an important part of the equation, there are some extra steps you can take to supplement your child's learning at home. The following tips will help you create a more successful environment for minority language acquisition.



Speak the minority language at home

If you are able to speak the minority language to your child at home, this really is the best way to ensure they have a good knowledge of it. This can be difficult to maintain, particularly once they start school and the majority language (the language of the community) becomes more prominent. They may start to speak the majority language exclusively and refuse to use the minority language at all. However, keep speaking the minority language to them and they will maintain an understanding of it. This is extremely important as if you do not keep speaking the minority language to them they could easily forget it altogether. So, keep at it. When children are surrounded by the minority language in the home, this will create an excellent environment for the acquisition of that language.

Speak the minority language at certain times

If you are not able to speak the minority language all the time, another method is to use it at certain times. This could be on certain days of the week, Turkish Tuesdays for example, or at a certain time of day, such as mealtimes. Think about your family routine and what works best for you.

Read

Reading is an excellent way to improve language skills, not only books, but also newspapers and magazine or blog articles too. If you cannot find books in the minority language, the internet is an excellent way to find reading materials in the target language. Look at online newspapers or blogs. Older children can print out articles to read or use them to practise translation. Highlight words and phrases to remember and write notes in the margins. It can be helpful to have a small notebook to write down new words or phrases you come across.

Watch TV in the minority language

I am not normally a fan of screen time but when it comes to screen time in the minority language, this can be a great way of improving language skills. If you want to use this as a method for learning the minority language, make sure your children are not too young. Children will not get much out of watching programs in the minority language until they are at least three years old. Before the age of three, it is much more important for them to acquire the language through social interaction with others. 

Also, it is important that your child has a certain level of understanding in the language they are watching the program in, in order for them to get something out of it. There needs to be a base level of knowledge otherwise they will not even know where one word ends and another begins and it will just be like listening to a stream of random sounds. 

Do homework

If your child attends a language class, chances are they will be given some homework to do. I am not usually a fan of homework, but in this case, it is extremely important that they do it. The homework will involve them revising what they have done in the class and it is a good idea to go over this during the week so that they don't forget what was covered. 



You can expand on this too. For example, if they learnt about a particular grammatical rule, explore this at home and think of phrases in which this rule could be applied. If they have learnt about a certain topic, e.g. shopping, think of ways you can practise using this vocabulary (going to the supermarket or role playing). If you can do practical activities that involve using the language in context, it will aid their learning even further. 

Arrange play dates with other children who speak the language

If you know some other families who speak the same language then make opportunities for your children to get together outside of class time to socialise. Encourage them to practise the minority language together. It's always more fun to learn with friends!



Use language learning resources at home

There are many different resources you can purchase for learning a language at home. There are work books, flashcards and apps. You may even be able to find board games, that have a language element, in the target language.Try to find resources that are fun and hold your child's interest. This way, they are much more likely to be motivated to use them and learn.


I hope these tips will help you to help your child improve their minority language skills. With a bit of time, thought and determination you will be able to add language practise into your daily routine and you will soon start to see the results. Good luck!




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