Tips for Sparking Children's Interest in a Foreign Language

Cloud Cuckoo was developed out of a desire to create a resource which would spark young learner’s interest and enthusiasm for learning foreign languages. The benefits of early language learning are numerous. Studies have shown that those with more than one language are more creative thinkers, able to process information in a more coherent and logical way. This is hardly surprising when you consider that language learning requires a deliberate examination of structures and excellent powers of recall, skills which come in useful across the whole curriculum.

In addition, recent studies have found that the early uptake of languages is an important factor in the likelihood of further study at GCSE and A Level. Early exposure to more than one language begins to put in place the building blocks needed to ensure a child entering the high school classroom is confident in his or her ability to succeed in their continued learning. They understand the relevance and importance of language learning, they feel confident enough to make mistakes and they embrace the uncertainty which comes with not always being able to easily communicate. In short, children with an early appreciation of the advantages of language learning are more likely to want to continue studying.

But with so many subjects competing for children’s attentions in the already packed primary curriculum, how can we make sure that language learning isn’t sidelined, put off until children reach high school by which stage, some argue, the most vital and receptive language learning years have already passed.

And so here are our top tips for encouraging your budding linguists!

1. Use a medium which interests your child – whether this is through technology, using the computer or an iPad to view language resources, reading a Foreign language bedtime story, listening to music from other cultures, or following a recipe from a different country. You can introduce as many or as few foreign language words as you think your child is ready for.

2. Make languages relevant. Got a 6 year old who wants to be a football player? Which team will he be playing for when he scores the winner in the World Cup and why will it be useful for him to be able to communicate with his fellow players? Talk about what your children want to do when they grow up and point out all the useful ways that speaking other languages will help them live their dreams!

3. Practice new language in bite size chunks – Recent studies show that the frequency of language learning needs to be increased. Most primary schools plan for 1 session of between 40 and 60 minutes per week but shorter, more frequents language lessons promote deeper learning. Why not use the trip to school to name the colours of the other cars or see how many different types of fruit they can remember at the supermarket.

4. Games – Children don’t realise they are learning when they are having fun. Play hide and seek counting in French or Simon Says in German!

5. Learn together – Children take great pleasure in being better at something than their parents/teachers. Try and learn some Mandarin words together and see how many more they can remember compared to you!

6. Children too shy to speak up in class? Use puppets as a way of encouraging less confident children. Puppets often help shy children overcome their fear of getting something wrong as the puppet distances them from the error. In the same way as children role play conversations with their favourite toys at home , talking through the use of puppets makes the activity fun and familiar.

7. Increase children’s cultural awareness. Look at traditions and customs from other countries and include them in children’s day to day experience. Throw a themed birthday party, decorate banners with foreign language words, sing Happy Birthday in another language and play pass the parcel to music from another culture.

8. Watch Foreign language TV. YouTube is a great source of foreign language cartoon clips with or without subtitles. Plus you are able to easily pause and replay if the episode is going too quickly.