Fun & Authentic Activities to Teach Your Child a Second Language!

As a foreign language teacher, I have acquired many creative methods of teaching a second language.  Speaking from experience, I feel that "performing" daily activities in the language is the best way to learn, and become more comfortable with the second language.  Therefore, below is a list of neat, and fun, activities for you to do with your emerging bilingual child:

1.      Play Store: This would best be done after your child has learned how to count, the value of money, the names of a variety of foods, question words, and basic greeting phrases in the second language.  Playing "store" involves greeting/answering the employee, ensuring that the prices and/or differences are correct, and asking where a certain food is located.

2.      Go Shopping in the Community: Once your child has grasped the concept of playing "store" in the second language, attempt to find a local ethnic store that may have employees who speak your child's second language.  Then, ask one of those employees to check you out when your are finished; while you are there, have your child do all of the work.  For example, provide your child with a shopping list in the second language, and then walk with your child as he/she searches for the item.  If he/she is unable to find an item do not tell him/her where it is located; instead, encourage him/her to ask the employee in the second language where the item is located.  When your child is finished shopping, provide him/her with the money, and have him/her purchase the items and check the amount of change.  If the change is incorrect, encourage your child to try to explain that to the employee in the second language.

3.      Play Restaurant: This would mimic some of the same concepts as playing "store," such as checking prices and change, but it would also require using polite restaurant-related questions and statements such as "I would like," or "Do you have."  You should play "restaurant," more than once; one time taking the role of the waiter/waitress, as your child takes the role of the customer, and then the next time, switch roles with your child.  This way, your child is learning, and using more vocabulary.  Playing "restaurant" should be done after your child has learned breakfast, lunch, and dinner foods, including desserts.  Your child should also have prior knowledge of numbers, the value of money, kitchen/dining vocabulary, and food vocabulary.

4.      Go to an Ethnic Restaurant: Once your child understands the concept of playing "restaurant," take him/her to an ethnic restaurant where the employees speak your child's second language.  Have your child do all of the ordering, and ask any necessary questions.  In order to get him/her to do this, tell him/her that they will not receive any food from the restaurant unless he/she uses his/her second language.  I have used this method in a "mock restaurant," with real food, in my classroom.  It worked tremendously!

5.      Attend an Ethnic Festival:  Visiting an ethnic festival should teach your child about the culture of the particular country; the dancing, the food, and the language.  It would give your child an opportunity to appreciate the culture, and it may motivate him/her to want to learn more of the language, or more about the culture.  The only thing you have to do is ensuring that you are playing an active role as well; buy your child some of the ethnic food, and reinforce the names of each food, and make sure you view a cultural dance show that may be held there.  By completing these actions, you are assuring that your child is gaining the new cultural knowledge to its fullest.

6.      Visit a Zoo: Going to a zoo is one of the best ways for your child to learn animal vocabulary in the second language.  As you stop to view each animal, you can teach your child the name of it in the second language, and have him/her repeat it.  Once you have viewed three-five different animals, review the animal names by saying, "Let's go back and look at the _________," saying the animal name in the second language; then, see if your child knows where you're going, or what you're going back to see.  Once you have reviewed the first three-five animals, continue to the next set of animals, and repeat the activity.  You will probably be surprised at how fast your child will absorb the new information.

These are just several ideas of how to teach your child some basic knowledge of his/her second language, and how to motivate him/her to want to learn more of his/her culture.  There are plenty more ways and/or activities that you can do with your child.  My advice is to participate with your child, because your child will most likely view it as time with you, instead of "learning time," and therefore, they will be more motivated to learn.

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