As we all know, studying a language is different from living a language. There is a very directed and purposeful process that occurs when we study a language.
This makes sense: as adults, we already understand how language works (grammar, declensions, parts of speech) so we now apply those rules to yet another language. We study the pieces bit by bit and then use them to construct new sentences with these individual pieces. However, our children shouldn’t be expected to study our language(s). Talk about boring!
Language living is what we do when we share our language with our children on a daily basis: we surround them with our languages and allow them to absorb these languages over time. We may point out grammar errors now and then but ultimately we are our children’s example for how to use languages in every day life and we share it with them without expecting them to understand the underlying constructs.
Learning a Language as a Family
Studying a language is no small task but it can be so much fun to do it as a family. I highly recommend it!
If you are learning a second language as a family, here are some tips that we would like to pass on from our own experiences:
- Playful. It is particularly important for a family to just let go of the weight of learning a language and instead play with it as much as possible. Your kids follow your lead and can see that being playful is not only ok, it is the best way to approach it. They act out the language, call out colors in the grocery store. It is such a wonderful excuse to spend time together having fun!
- Make Mistakes. Contrary to what comes naturally to us adults, making mistakes in language learning is the best thing that can happen, especially when someone else points them out. The sooner you give yourselves permission to make mistakes (lots and lots of mistakes), the sooner you can move on to the real process of learning a language. Plus, laughing at your own mistakes makes for so much family fun.
- Speaking. Speak the language as much as possible! Our students have the platform to do this all the time without caring whether the words are correctly pronounced or not and whether they know exactly what all of them mean. The language is so very lovely and they love to let it roll off the tongue. Often we will put on a podcast of some random dialog and allow them to just repeat the words and sentences whether they recognize them or not.
- Be Inefficient! It can be so hard to get out of our “training” which says that we need to be efficient and moving forward in an accountable way. Throw that out the window if it starts to discourage you! This is not school and you have no one to answer to but yourselves and your own family.
- Learn From One Another. One of the best parts about learning a language together with your family is the give and take between each other. Each one is in a situation of correcting another family member. It is fabulous! Not only does this help feel empowered by your language learning, it puts you all on a level playing field where you can truly share in the experience as equals.
- Learning Styles. We definitely each have different ways of learning. The joy of learning a language with your family is seeing how each of you responds to language differently. Some prefer visual input, others audio and some by writing things down. Sometimes having a translation is beneficial, other times just listening even when you don’t understand is most enjoyable.
- Emotion. Learning a language can be very emotional – in fact, I believe it should be to some degree to really have an impact. There is so much more to the whole experience of learning a language than the language itself. Culture, music, food and more all come along with the language by default and have an impact on you. And you should remember that as it is very personal, this means you need to accept the fact that each of you will experience it differently and on your own terms.
Those are my 7 Tips for Successful Language Learning. Can you add an 8th to this list?
What are your experiences learning a language? Do you have some additional tips? Do you feel an emotional connection to the language(s) that you have learned? Please share your thoughts!