Nowadays parents are becoming more and more aware of the great importance of introducing their children to other languages and cultures. There are several reasons why parents decide to “embark on a multilingual adventure”. Some have very practical reasons, such as having international jobs where they have to move to different countries. In these cases, children often have the necessity to learn another language to be able to communicate at school. Other parents, however, might simply like a particular language and country. These parents may e.g. decide that it would be nice if their kids could communicate with other children on their yearly summer vacations abroad, and make new friends. However, one of the most frequent reasons is when both mother and father come from different cultural and linguistic backgrounds, and want to pass on their languages, creating a multilingual environment for their children.
By creating such an environment, they not only pass on their languages, but also their cultural heritage. When you learn another language, you also learn about its culture. Culture and language are, in fact, very closely intertwined and cannot be disconnected from one another. Therefore, cultural heritage not only refers to a country’s general traditions, customs, norms and values, but also to its language and the way the members of that culture communicate.
So how can parents introduce their children to other languages, and why is it so important?
In general we can say that one of the best ways to teach children different languages is through fun and playful activities. Parents could e.g. consider: enrolling their kids in a language course where learning languages is combined with music, dancing and other creative activities; joining an international playgroup; hiring a babysitter who speaks the target language; going on vacation to immerse themselves in the language and culture. Another great way to raise multilingual kids, and this is probably the easiest and most natural way for parents who already speak the target languages fluently, is to simply use the languages regularly and consistently during all the fun, daily activities with children: reading, playing, coloring, crafting, watching cartoons, singing etc.
Whether parents are monolingual or multilingual, and whether or not they speak the target languages fluently, one of the most important things is to make the child’s learning experience as natural and enjoyable as possible. That is why at GeoCom for Kids we like to give parents the opportunity to introduce their children to foreign languages in a fun, natural and easy way, by designing a variety of cheerful and engaging language products, such as interactive games and coloring books, free online animations and various free printables.
Whichever language strategy and tools parents decide to use, one of the most essential aspects is to take the child’s needs, personality, preferences and family situation into consideration, and adapt the learning process accordingly. The gift of languages is one of the best gifts that parents can give to their children, and one that they will treasure for the rest of their lives. It will not only broaden their horizon and give them the possibility to communicate with more people around the world, learn about different cultures and have better job opportunities, but it will most likely also broaden their minds. Being aware of different languages and cultures from an early age will make cultural diversity more natural to children. It will therefore encourage them to be more open-minded and see cultural and linguistic differences not as an intercultural communication barrier, but rather as an asset and a wonderful opportunity to learn from each other’s differences. So let’s start introducing our kids to foreign languages now, and have lots of fun along the “intercultural way”!