Tuesday Topic: Involving Children in Language Learning

From Amie heading to South Sudan: How do you involve your kids in language learning?

(If you would like to pose a “Tuesday Topic” question, please email it to formissionarymoms@gmail.com . Provide your blog address if you would like to be linked to, and specify also if you would like to remain anonymous. Thanks!)

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6 Responses to “Tuesday Topic: Involving Children in Language Learning”


  1. 1 Becka May 15, 2012 at 8:44 pm

    When we arrived we enrolled our children in a local school. This really helped them to learn the language very quickly. After they began to attend and MK school we had them take classes once a week so they could continue to improve. This worked very well for them.

  2. 2 nlkamper May 15, 2012 at 11:29 pm

    We just finished a year of language school where our oldest son went form 4 to 5 years old and our second son went from 2 1/2 to 3 1/2. They were in an all Spanish preschool during our time in language classes. This helped them greatly! We also try to have Spanish language children’s books around, let them watch a tv show in Spanish each day, have Spanish language music (kid and adult) playing often and using what Spanish we can as a family. We don’t force them to speak in Spanish, but it often just happens with them. We had the benefit of learning a very common language, so my mom could mail us new kids’ books in Spanish and even now that we are stateside for the birth of our third boy, we can still get some interaction. In fact, the other day, my second son asked to watch Veggie Tales “not in English mom!” Ok, can do buddy!

    We also made sure they engaged people in our community while we were at language school, having them go to Sunday school at our Spanish speaking church. Really, kids will grab on to it. We tried to make it fun and learn together as a whole family. Even today, I was reviewing some flash cards and my 5 year old said, “Mama, ask me some questions too!”

    And have grace with them when they get tired. My same 5 year old sometimes would say, “I am so tired of learning Spanish!” Yep, I hear you buddy! Me too…but then the next day he would be back at it. Give the whole family some slack…it’s hard…and it’s suppose to be. But it can be really fun too!

    Hope some of that helps!

  3. 3 Ashley L May 16, 2012 at 5:40 pm

    Hi Amie! I tried to add a comment earlier but accidentally deleted it! Ah! I just said that something that has been one of our biggest helps (especially after establishing a basic knowledge of the language) has been just being around people (nationals) as often as we can be. For us this means lots of time on the playground where the kids are motivated to talk by wanting to play and where I am also motivated by wanting to talk with the other moms. This can also include having guests, joining classes or church gatherings, etc. We just try to find things that we really enjoy doing, that are low stress and therefore frequently doable, and that keep us interacting and using our language. Having a language helper is also a great help, and I have heard that women who hire someone to come help in their home often grow in their language abilities through those relationships. I’ve also seen a number of people go and label all of the things in their house as a way to be able to easily learn vocab without actually sitting down to study. This would be helpful, obviously, only for kids who read. There is a downloadable document (61 pages) if you scroll down to the “Box” add-on on the right hand column. I think it is the 4th one down and is titled “Children’s LL…” Jamin has had the idea to have one evening a week when we only speak in Russian. So far we haven’t implemented it, but I thought it was a good idea. I think someone on here in the past mentioned doing that and mentioned creating different themes to make it fun and introduce new vocabulary. I can’t wait to hear what you and your family come up with as you delve into the language!

  4. 4 Kara Coe May 17, 2012 at 3:10 am

    The only thing that has worked for us it to put the kids in 5-day-a-week national pre/school. Babysitters, national friends, even kids on the playground seem to reach a plateau, where our kids understand enough and the others learn to interpret their funny phrases. We tried having dinner once a week in Russian, but that died off quickly.

    However, only our oldest has really started speaking well, and that’s after 3 years of national school! This next year we are transitioning to homeschool for all, and one of my biggest concerns is how to help the kids all keep improving. We are hoping to find a good tutor, and have each kid in both sports and music where they are interacting with others. But it’s not an easy thing! My perspective has shifted some lately, as I realize that the most important thing is not that my children speak Russian like Russians. They have many other needs (academically, emotionally and spiritually) that are very different from the neighborhood kids, and we’re learning to be okay with the sacrifices that it might take linguistically in order to meet those other needs. We’ll see how that goes!

  5. 5 Ashley L May 17, 2012 at 10:58 am

    Also, I should have mentioned this when I posted Amie’s questions, but she will be in a situation that is a bit different from a lot of us where, as far as I understand, there won’t be the option for her children to attend a local school (they will be working in a very remote area and likely among refugees I believe… think mud hut or building your own small house by hand.). I think she also mentioned that they will be learning a local dialect that is not widely spoken (so no DVDs, etc…). Does anyone have specific experience or know of ideas for this sort of situation? These would be some unique language learning challenges for sure, but I know many missionaries have done it/ do it!

  6. 6 Patty May 19, 2012 at 11:52 am

    Thanks for the added info, Ashley. I’m looking for info that way, too. We are in a large city, our national language is English, but most people speak only enough to get by. We use a tribal language with hardly any resources- very few for adults and almost none for children. No language schools and national school for the kids is not an option. House help is also out of the question. My husband and I have just had to work really hard to pick up what we’ve got, but it is still so rough. It can be a bit discouraging at times. Those who would help us most are also the most educated and will often switch into English so that we understand them. It’s also quite a temptation to just say it in English to those who do understand and they can translate {bad habit!}
    Sorry I’ve written a book, but hoping for some more ideas! {especially for the kiddos!}


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