Who wouldn’t want their kids to be bilingual? We all do!
But how many of us have time to actually pursue it?
Following these tips can help make learning a second language a little more doable.
1. Create a free Duolingo account for each family member.
Automatic notifications make it easy to remind kids to practice anywhere from 5-20 minutes per day on a smartphone or computer.
2. Write grocery lists in your second language.
I keep a grocery list on the fridge where anyone in the family can add items that are running low.
Challenging the family to contribute to the grocery list in your chosen language is a great way to integrate basic vocabulary words into your daily routine.
3. Learn a song in your new language.
You probably know that setting information to the tune of a song can make it much easier (and more fun!) to memorize.
Your kids will love singing in a different language and learning what the lyrics mean in English.
Try searching YouTube for songs you love featured in a new language.
4. Go crazy with Post-its! Label everything around the house to earn points toward privileges.
At my house, we turned this into a game. Each child got a pad of sticky notes in their favorite color and could earn points toward video game time, extended curfew, and other privileges for labeling items around the house.
Once all the obvious stuff was taken, my kids got super creative learning the words for “space bar,” “extension cord,” and “broken blinds” in a bid for more privilege points.
Your family will learn their household nouns in no time!
5. Get directions on Maps in your second language.
Understanding how to give and get directions is crucial for any foreign travel. Encourage kids to get directions in their second language online then read them aloud and translate into English.
Sometimes I’ll change my phone language to Spanish while I navigate (if I already know where I’m going) so we can hear the instructions and commit directional language to memory.
6. Figure out how to order in a foreign restaurant, then go there and do it.
Chances are good that there’s a restaurant near you whose owners and employees speak a first language other than English.
Brush up on your restaurant and food vocabulary, then take your family out and challenge them to interact with the staff entirely in their new language.
7. Watch a movie you know with foreign language dubbing and English subtitles.
Many popular movies and TV shows have voice-overs in other languages, plus options for subtitles in several languages.
Watching a show or movie your kids are familiar with in a different language will help them learn conversation skills and proper pronunciation.
8. Ask your family to translate their social media status updates.
Here’s another easy assignment that you can turn into a game for rewards:
Every time a family member posts on social media, have them write out their status in their second language, using the internet for translation help.
This exercise will help with learning how to speak (and write!) conversationally, instead of just being quizzed on individual words!
9. Get a phrase book to convert vocab words into usable sentences.
As your kids progress with Duolingo and vocabulary exercises, they’ll want to start speaking in complete sentences.
Phrase books are a great resource for developing conversational language skills.
10. Encourage your family to follow companies or individuals who post to social media in your chosen language.
Your family can track down foreign companies and public figures on social media who post in your new language.
Following these accounts will infuse their feeds with foreign language material from native speakers! Bonus points for translating posts and showing Mom!
11. Encourage kids to read a news article in a foreign language.
Combine current events and foreign language learning!
My kids earn rewards for reading a news article in their second language and summarizing it for me.
12. Schedule zero-English meals for your family.
Commit three or four dinners or family hangouts each month to your second language.
English is strictly forbidden! Our first couple meals were pretty quiet, but the silence is a great motivator to improve.
You’ll all be gabbing away in your new language in just a few months!
13. Join a foreign language group near you using Meetup.
Meetup is a great resource for finding locals with common goals and interests. Use the internet to track down any foreign language meetups in your area.
14. Use airline miles or save up for foreign travel to immerse yourselves in the new language.
This can be the most valuable part of your kids’ foreign language education, and keeping a big trip like this on the horizon can really motivate all of you to keep learning.
For tips on cheaper travel, check out my article about 12 Little-Known Ways to Save on Your Next Flight.