I get a lot of messages from monolingual parents asking for advice and tips on how to teach their child a language they don’t speak themselves.
The key objective is for your child to find the need to speak the language. You need to find opportunities for him/her to speak the language as naturally as possible.
Sharing some advice/tips of how to do that below:
# 1. Have your child spend time with a native speaker
Research shows that by exposing your child to social interactions, they can have the same level of phonetic recognition as a child who is surrounded by the language their entire lives.
Interactions with a live person provides your children with social cues that can hold their attention in a way that less dynamic formats, such as audio recordings and DVDs, can.
Contact a bilingual family member or friend who can spend time with your child. You can set up playdates or excursions in which this person can speak to your child in the target language, thus creating a truly immersive experience.
# 2. Find media in your target language
While using audio or video media to learn a language may be less effective than in-person interactions, it is a more feasible option that can allow your child to gain exposure to language acquisition. I would highly recommend finding music in the language that both you and your child can enjoy together.
# 3. Use child-friendly language-learning software
There are dozens of programs and apps out there that help young learners immerse themselves in another language.
For Yoruba, I highly recommend apps by Geniigames
If you know of any others for African languages, please feel free to share in the comments section.
# 4. Find extracurricular activities in target language
If you are having difficulty finding native speakers in your community, you can consider enrolling your child in an extracurricular activity in which he/she can be exposed to your target language. This may take the shape of formalised lessons with a tutor, or of activities that just happen to take place in that language.
For those who follow any particular faith, you may even consider attending a place of worship where that language is spoken predominantly.
Shameless plug 😁: We offer private tuition and Yoruba classes at CultureTree Centre and will soon be adding more African languages to our offerings.
# 5. Learn the language together
While this may be the most time-consuming option of all, if you have the time and are interested in learning the language, you can make this a team effort. A child will be willing and interested in learning a new language if he/she sees that his/her parents show an interest and passion for this language.
Through adult courses or language-learning programs, you can master the language and slowly teach your child what you learn. It may be the longest route, but it is one that will have you and your child bonding through your mutual learning.
Once you incorporate language-learning into yours and your child’s routine, you are likely to see new linguistic and cognitive development.