How to Teach Your Child a Foreign Language

Find a Class

If your child doesn't have the chance to learn a second language at home, you can enroll her in a language class for children. Some schools offer "Mommy & Me" classes for kids as young as age 2 (why not take the opportunity to brush up on your high school French?); while others provide classes for the preschool and school-age set.

When looking for a class, make sure it meets the following criteria:

  • It is taught by a native speaker. Children who learn a foreign language before the onset of puberty have the potential to speak it with a near-native accent. That's why it's particularly important for kids to learn to repeat words and phrases properly. You should also try to find a class in which the teacher speaks the foreign language exclusively in the classroom (no English!) and immerses the students in its sounds.
  • It is fun and engaging for kids. A good children's class should use songs, arts and crafts, games, and other child-friendly activities to teach language. In a preschool Spanish class, for instance, an instructor might give the students toy farm animals to play with, while teaching a song about them in Spanish. Older kids might focus on activities such as cooking, puppetry, and folk dancing to build conversation and vocabulary skills and learn about the native culture.
  • It is the right size and length for your child. Some schools offer private lessons, which allow children to learn at an individual pace, as well as group lessons, which can include six to eight kids at a time. Classes can also range in length, from, say, 45 minutes to 90 minutes or longer. Before you enroll your child in any program, ask whether you can observe a class so that you can decide whether it's the right one for your child -- and whether he will enjoy it over time.

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