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Teach them their ABC – in another language
Remember how you learnt English? ABC posters and books; listening to those around you; questioning what things were called. You absorbed the language from all kinds of sources.
For young children learning a foreign language can be done in just the same way.
When they are learning a new language, the difficulty for children is that away from the classroom and homework assignments, they are surrounded by their native language, so can forget much of what they have studied.
But there are ways you can help your child pick up more of the basics of a language while at home, by re-introducing them to the simple methods by which they learned English. It might also help you learn something yourself.
When your child was very young they may have had posters up displaying simple words and pictures. This time, buy one in the foreign language they are learning and display it in a prominent place in the home.
The same applies to books. ABC books are just as popular in other countries, and foreign language versions are available in the UK from bookshops and online stores. Change posters and books as their language skills improve.
Also, regularly write new foreign words and phrases on adhesive notes and leave them around the home – ie the word for door on the door, the word for chair on a chair and so on.
Leave foreign language magazines or newspapers around the home and have a dictionary on the shelf. Phrases such as in headlines may stick in their memory, so encourage them to nurture their curiosity and attempt to translate them.
Another method is to test your child’s spelling. They may know how to spell out English words, but try to get them to spell them out using the foreign pronunciation of letters.
Listening to language can help a child distinguish individual words. Very young children pick up their native language partly from the conversations taking place around them.
Regularly leave a foreign talk radio station playing in the background so they get used to accents and the speed of conversation. These radio stations can be found on AM bands, although they are now much clearer quality and easier to find on the Internet.
If you read to your child, why not read them foreign language versions of stories they know and like, with perhaps plenty of pictures to give them an idea of what is being described. Comics are also useful as they illustrate what is being said.
Many DVDs come with subtitles in different languages, so why not leave the subtitles on when your child is watching their favourite film?
Of course, practice makes perfect, so when you are on holiday encourage your child to order in restaurants or in shops using the local language.
Although this may seem daunting, the sense of achievement and confidence gained will be immense.