The time had finally come and we were ready for our family vacation to Mexico. After the 6-hour flight, we finally landed and made our way to baggage claim to collect our belongings. As we stepped outside to catch a ride to our hotel, I saw a man yell, “Necesitas que te lleven?” I didn’t know what he was saying so I just shook my head and politely said, “No, that’s alright.” Little did I know that the man was asking if we needed a ride. Instead of quickly getting to our hotel, I passed on the offer and delayed our transportation all because I didn’t speak or understand Spanish. After that week long trip, my children made me promise that before our next vacation, we would make an effort to learn the country’s native language.

Travel is just one of the many reasons families choose to learn a second language. Learning an additional language improves one’s native language skills, memory, and academics. Many school-aged children pick language as an elective. And still, there are families who relocate to other countries because of work or military obligations. Whatever your reason is for learning a foreign language, consider incorporating these three tips to grow your children’s foreign language skills.

How to Grow Your Child’s Foreign Language Skills

  1. Sign Up for a Foreign Language Program
  2. Take a Mock Vacation
  3. Practice your New Language in Creative Ways

Sign Up for a Foreign Language Program

There are in-person classes, tutors, homeschool co-ops, foreign language clubs, and even apps that can be great resources for teaching your child a foreign language.

We found the best fit for our family was to add Time4Languages on to our Time4Learning membership. These online interactive courses can be accessed on any desktop or laptop device 24/7. We chose German, but they also have courses in Italian, Japanese, Russian, Spanish (Latin American), French, Chinese (Mandarin), Latin, and English (American). The program is great because it helps my children think and speak in German. They are also talking into a microphone to perfect their pronunciation of the words.

Take A Mock Vacation

Taking a trip to the country in which the language originates in or studying abroad are great ways to learn your foreign language. However, if you’re like my family, taking a trip once a year is all that fits in our budget. Since Germany was the next country we would be visiting, we held a mock vacation day at home, where my children and I immersed ourselves in the German culture all from our home. We dressed up in lederhosen, which is the German word for trousers, we baked pretzels, and cooked bratwurst on the grill. We also spoke German all day. This really put our knowledge to the test. If we didn’t know how to say a specific word or phrase we would write it down so we could do some research on it later.

Practice your New Language in Creative Ways

Learning a new language is exciting, but you definitely have to practice to help it stick. We have found fun and creative ways to keep up our family’s newfound skills before our trip. Here are a few that you and your family can also try:

  • Change all your settings on your phone/computer to the specific language you are learning. Surprisingly enough, you will catch on very quickly and be able to maneuver around your device sooner than later.
  • Rent a foreign movie but try to hold off on the subtitles as long as possible.
  • Fun Fact: Wikipedia pages have been created in over 200 languages, get ready to read lots and lots of foreign content.
  • Visit a restaurant specializing in the country for the language you are learning. Not only can you practice reading the menu and order in the language, but also get a feel for the culture.
  • Find a penpal in a country that speaks the language you are learning. You can either write letters to practice your writing or Skype to practice your pronunciations.
  • Join a foreign language club. It’s a great way to make friends with common interests.

Today, we live in such a diverse world, where approximately 350 different languages are spoken throughout the U.S. and 43% of the world’s population is bilingual. If you are ready to help your children become multilingual, consider an online program such as Time4Languages, which can easily fit into your daily schedule. And don’t forget to practice those newfound skills with reading, writing, and pronunciation activities inside and outside of the house. I can’t wait to see how this extra effort pays off when we visit Germany in the summer.