8 Ways to Learn a Second Language Along With Your Child

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We live in a diverse and multilingual society. So what does that mean for our children? I can’t even remember how many job ads I looked through after college that read, “Bilingual required” or “strongly preferred.” Add to that the rapid globalization of the world, and our children may even need to be flexible enough to work in another country, and at least competent enough to do business internationally. When I had the pleasure of traveling to foreign countries I often found that many children spoke a minimum of 2 languages, and I could barely speak a second. Additionally research shows that learning more than one language increases brain function. With all this in mind, I had no doubt that raising bilingual children was a must for me.

I can imagine that it is a lot easier to raise bilingual children when you are fluent in a second or third language. Unfortunately that is not the case with our family. My husband and I speak a little broken Spanish, and know a few words here and there from other languages, but that’s it. We both took Spanish in high school and have traveled to Spanish speaking countries, and of course we live in Southern California so we meet fluent Spanish speakers everyday. But sometimes it is still a struggle to teach ourselves, as well as our children, another language. Of course, if you want to teach your child a second or third language, it requires that you learn it as well.

Here are some things we do:

1. Sing Songs
Music is an easy and fun way to learn a language. Find your favorite nursery rhyme and/or lullaby and see if it’s on YouTube in another language, then sing with with your child once a day. Sing a new song each week, and you can quickly cover the basics of the most commonly used words.

2. Movies/TV
Does your child watch Doc Mc Stuffins, or Umi Zoomi? Most shows in the United States are distributed all over the world. Try to find their favorite show in another language. Many items they can be found on YouTube.

3. Post It Notes (This is more for the parent)
Remember The Color Purple, when Nettie taught Celie how to read? Do that with a foreign language! At breakfast time, label the spoon, fork, food, etc. and say each item out aloud with your children.

4. Play dates
This is a lot easier if you live in an area where there is a large population of people who speak another language. Make friends with other parents whose children are bilingual and hang out with them.

5. Apps
Little Pim has a free app to teach a few Spanish and French words, and there are other language apps geared towards children.

6. Mommy and Me Classes
If you are blessed enough to live in an area where there are language classes for children, go to them! You will meet other people and have the opportunity to speak, and hear your accent and pronunciation critiqued.

7. Story Time
Check your local libraries and bookstores for story time in another language.

8. Eating at Foreign Restaurants
Most food joints I’ve been to make an extra effort to be American-like, but occasionally we go to restaurants that share their culture and language as part of the dining experience.

Most of the activities I listed above can be done no matter where you live or what language you choose to teach your children. Luckily we live in an area with lots of resources, and even dual language schools nearby. So far my youngest is a year old and just learning to talk, but my oldest is now three and learning to speak some Spanish. She can count up to 100 and sing the Spanish alphabet. Where we need to improve is with her conversational skills.

We chose to teach our children Spanish mainly because it is the language that is most familiar to us. If there were more resources I would love to pick up an African language like Yoruba, Twi or Swahili. I really wish that there were more child-centered resources to learn African languages. We love Bino and Fino, which CNN called, an “African Dora the Explorer , ” but the show is limited to a few greetings and simple counting up to ten. This is an area that needs improvement, since language is so important to culture and so many languages are dying everyday.

I hope that one day I can say that I am completely fluent in at least one language other than English.

Are you a parent who only speaks one language and wants to teach your child another? What language do you want to learn? What resources have you found to he helpful? Please share!


Angele is a wife to a wonderful creative husband, mother to two beautiful intelligent daughters and lover of art, education and laughter.  She is the creator and author of ABC remix.


About Angele

Angele is a wife to a wonderful creative husband, mother to two beautiful intelligent daughters and lover of art, education and laughter. She is the creator and author of ABC remix