The value of speaking another language is being increasingly recognised by parents. Bilingual children are no longer simply the result of intercultural families where two languages are used at home. It is refreshing to see the opportunities now available offering Spanish classes for toddlers, French conversation practice for infants and German language courses for teens. If you are thinking of helping your kids learn a second language here are some words of encouragement and pointers on finding language schools that can help really bring a language to life.
The gift of languages
Speaking another language is a gift, and one that keeps on giving throughout your life. Academics concur that there is a distinct cognitive edge gained through the acquisition of a new language, so those German lessons do not hamper your child’s English development but actually enhance it. In today’s world the enhanced cross-cultural understanding and gaining of different cultural perspectives that are part and parcel of language learning all help your child to develop into a global citizen. Of course, another part of this development is the opening up of career and travel opportunities in later life.
Choosing a language
There are three considerations in choosing a language to learn: the family, the community and opportunity. In bilingual families, or those with family members using another language elsewhere in the world, language choice can be straightforward. Or it may be that in your community there is another language widely used, so it would be useful for your kids to speak it. Finally, choosing a language for its use or importance globally is an opportunistic factor that may come into play in language choice.
Learning a language
The latest thinking on language learning is that immersing your children in a language – preferably from a young age – is the best approach. If your children start to learn German in London, don’t forget to also get German friends to help and to book a holiday in Berlin or Hamburg. You can use books, travel, friends, films, magazines, songs, games and internet resources to provide language practice for reading, writing and speaking. Try to combine language learning with learning about the cultures and countries where the language is used. Above all, dive in to the language experience and splash about in it with your kids!
Choose a language school
Language schools come in all shapes and sizes and adopt different approaches, so finding one that ticks the boxes for your children is important. The first thing to check is the school’s credentials and accreditation. For instance, if you visit www.uiclondon.com you will see on the homepage that it is accredited and regularly inspected by the British Council and the ISI (Independent Schools Inspectorate). The next consideration is thinking about the class size, approach, study duration, class times and costs that suit your child and your purse. Above all, it’s important to visit the school to make sure it feels right for you and your child.
Learning a language is a journey and it is one that can get tough. Here are two quotes to keep your kids on the right track along the way:
‘The limits of my language are the limits of my world’. (Ludwig Wittgenstein)
‘To have another language is to possess a second soul’. (Charlemagne)
Buena suerte, viel glück, bonne chance, buona fortuna – which is to say, good luck!