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How to Teach Your Kids Another Language, Even If You Don’t Speak It.

Education: The only thing as a parent that I can truly give my children that will truly be theirs.

My mom would say, “Study hard, because no one can take that away from you.” She worked hard so my brother and I would have the best education and opportunities. And as I grew older, I realized she was right. It was because of education that I got the opportunity to move to Canada, later the United States, and then again Canada.

And for me, part of that education is multilingualism. Having my children speak more than one language, especially in Canada (that has two official languages) is one of the true legacies I can give them.

The benefits of a bilingual child are many. Studies show that the younger the child, the more likely he or she would be able to learn the language in a native capacity. However, I will not lie, it’s a struggle to raise multilingual children. For starters, they don’t want to learn or speak the language (my children have a hard time wanting to speak anything other than French these days), and it’s not always easy if you don’t speak another language yourself and foreign language classes are not necessarily the most affordable. But while hard, it’s not necessarily impossible to raise multilingual children.

The best and most important trick I’ve found to teach and encourage my kids to learn another language is the TV. With the current access we have to different types of programs, I’ve taken it upon myself to encourage my kids to watch TV in a foreign language. Netflix and YouTube are great allies in your quest for multilingual children.

This is an idea that I got from one of my aunts whose kids are fluent in more than four languages. When I asked her the secret to having multilingual children, her answer was simple: TV.

Every day, her children have to alternate between the four languages she had chosen for them to learn and are only allowed to consume media in those four languages. The language from their native country is off limits when it comes to the media they consume, as she believes that they will already learn it in school and from their friends.

So far, her advice has been fantastic. Of course, it isn’t always about the TV. I do try to encourage my children to use different words in a foreign language. They don’t even realize they’re helping me with my language skills too!

Multilingualism can bring so many benefits to a child now as they develop language skills, adopting a greater understanding of words, and it will also help them in the future. I hope this inspires my children to travel and see the world. It may also open up career opportunities.

As I first pointed out, it isn’t easy – especially if you aren’t too familiar with the language yourself! But perseverance can be very rewarding for everyone.

Are you encouraging your child to learn a second language? What tips and tricks do you use?


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