If your homeschooler has been studying a foreign language for any length of time, he or she probably knows by now that sometimes, mastery of a new language comes slowly. It can take many rounds of flashcard review, chanting verb conjugations, and listening to native speakers in order to be able to utter a single coherent phrase. And even once your child is able to speak or write a phrase in the new language, he or she might feel just plain awkward about it (that’s normal, by the way, and it passes).
Because language learning requires such a significant time and energy investment, it is crucial to help your child celebrate his/her progress during the process. Much like learning math or learning to play a musical instrument, learning to communicate in a new language requires a significant investment of time and energy—and without some fun thrown in, this level of investment can feel burdensome.
So, what’s a homeschooling parent to do? How can we come alongside our children to show interest in their budding language skills and encourage them to keep working hard at learning a new language?
Here are a few ideas:
1. Invite your child’s friends over for a language-themed party. Have your child plan the menu and activities (lots of cultural learning right there!) and offer a mini-vocabulary lesson to his friends—at least the food vocabulary, if nothing else! There are a million ways to do this, so here’s a few possible themes (and I’d love to hear your additional ideas in the comments):
- German students: Oktoberfest with sausages, sauerkraut, and pretzels (and maybe some German folk dance)?
- Spanish students: A Three Kings party with “rosca de reyes” on Epiphany.
- French students: Birthday Party for the Marquis de Lafayette (ties in well with a history unit on the American Revolution!).
2. Host a family movie night with a film in your child’s chosen language of study. This is be rounded out with some delicious treats as well. Common Sense Media, which I always check before showing anything to my own children, has a great list of foreign films that are safe for kids.
3. Plan a poetry teatime for your homeschool co-op that includes works written in your child’s new language. Many libraries have bilingual anthologies of children’s poetry—be they Spanish/English, French/English, or German/English. Work with your child (and your local librarian) to choose her favorite texts, and then make copies of the poems available in both languages. If you have a particularly extroverted and/or performative child, perhaps she would be willing to recite the poetry in its original language for her friends. Again, make this fun with some decorations and food. Preparing themed snacks for the teatime can be a great learning experience and fun bonding time for you and your child as well.
Have you planned any similar activities to encourage your family’s language learning? What did you do?