Most children don’t really have a choice of what language they learn. Whatever language their caregivers speak at home, and whatever language is taught in school, they learn. But in some circumstances, what happens if the child is reluctant to learn a particular language?
Let’s say the main language spoken at home is different from the one that the school uses – in this kind of scenario, it is highly plausible that a child will prefer the language of the home, and feel resistant towards the language used in school. The cause may be certain negative encounters they’ve had with the language, or simply the unfamiliarity of the whole language and environment.
Yet, it’s too early for you to give up! You probably know that giving your child a bilingual education is beneficial to them, which is why you’re doing this. However, when met with circumstances like this, what can you do?
Rather than giving up straightaway, you can encourage your child to love the language by making language learning enjoyable for them. Here are some ways you can do this:
Turn learning into a game
Kids love to play – no one’s going to disagree with this! Rather than approaching language learning like a school subject, it might be easier to get a child accustomed to a language through word games and activities.
Simple games like word association and charades are easy to pick up, and can be easily adjusted to the child’s language abilities. Parents can take advantage of a rewards system to ignite their child’s competitive spirit. With a prize – or their pride – on the line, children are more likely to put their heart into striving to win the game. Chances are, they won’t realise you’re actually drilling them to learn a language!
Go on an outing
Your child’s reluctance may be due to the sheer foreignness of the language, and they don’t see the need to learn it. For children who are old enough, you might be able to pique their interest by introducing them to significant cultural sites, stories and characters related to the language.
Take some time during the weekends to bring them to a cultural show, or to historical sites around the city. Sometimes all it takes for one story or character to strike a chord in them, and your child will be able to find their reason for learning the language.
Play some music or cartoons
Take away the alienness of the language by assimilating your child to the sound of it at home. Children’s cartoon shows, audiobooks, and songs are great ways to engage children and familiarise their ears to the language. The storylines and emotions in these media are made to capture children’s attention and promote learning.
The wonderful thing about these materials is that you don’t need to be fluent in the language to be able to use it, since they are meant for beginner learners. Parents can even use this chance to learn together!
Explain the advantages
For older kids, you might need to tap into their psyche to motivate them to pick up the language. Make them understand why it is so valuable to have the chance to undergo a bilingual education, and what it means for them.
For example, you might tell them they will be able to make more friends around the world if they are bilingual. Tell them that learning languages will help them when they travel in future. Once they realise that it is for their own good, they are likely to start seeing language learning in a new, more positive light.
In essence, getting a reluctant learner to warm up to a foreign language typically calls for measures which will make them feel less intimidated and lost. Instead, start with fun-filled and comfortable activities, and also get them to understand why they are learning another language.
Not to forget, the child’s experience in their school also makes a huge difference. If the teachers there are adept at what they do, chances are, they will have tons of tricks up their sleeves to make newcomers feel comfortable.
At International School in Singapore, their well-established Chinese-English and French-English bilingual programmes take children through engaging and interactive activities which help them to learn happily and rapidly. If you’re on the hunt for an IB education school with robust language programmes, you’ll need to look no further.