With all the hate going on in the world, bigotry, and lack of understanding of other cultures, one of the things that helped me to open my mind and my opinion of others was learning a new language. It also helped me to not travel the world like a Neo-colonialist.
When I first moved abroad, after undergrad, I only spoke Spanish (HS, and University level) and English and I had a whole lot of ignorance surrounding the world.
Now I speak French, Spanish, German, and English (debatably as I’m an American).
As of right now, my little V understands French and English. Her German is as good as my Mandarin in which I only know how to say: “Hello,” “Thank you,” “I love you,” and “I’m not Chinese.” Don’t even ask…
Anyway, how about I get to how you can learn another language. Ready, set, go!
1. Watch Children’s Cartoons in the target language
This is something fun that you can do with your polyglot-in-training. Depending upon how amenable your child is to change, try and change the language of their favourite cartoon. If they’re not having it, like V, who responds with “this is weird!” then it’s probably best to try a cartoon that isn’t their favourite.
It’s important to remember, that as it’s a basic form of the language, it’ll be easier for you to understand too. It’ll teach you and your little one the building blocks of the language without you having to sit in a boring classroom. Also, if you have Netflix, it’ll be super easy to just change the language of the movie or show you’d like to watch.
2. Try Duolingo
This is probably the best free tool out there and it can be used with teaching your, slightly older, children a language. It’s probably best for ages 9+ but don’t quote me on that. I introduced Vin’s niece to it, who is 9 years old, and she loved it. Her younger sister didn’t take too much interest in it however.
If your child is not old enough, and you’d like to learn, then Duolingo is great for you too! It helped my German go from a complete beginner to an intermediate level in about 3 months of daily, one hour, learning. There’s an app, as well as laptop capabilities.
It’s like Lays potato chips though…it’s seriously addictive.
3. Try Little Pims
Little Pims costs a bit, but not too much. It’s for very young children and it’s interface is super easy to use. V uses it for French and I’m considering getting it for her German as well.
It has loads of files that you’ll need to download onto your computer, so make sure that you have enough space. Also, it can’t be used on a tablet, which is unfortunate.
4. Read to your children in your new language
At first this was a bit of a challenge, because I hated the way I pronounced the words or I wasn’t even completely sure that I was pronouncing them correctly. But again, since it is for children it will provide you with those essential building blocks. It will help you build your vocabulary and understanding of sentence structure.
Plus, it’s a beautiful moment that you can share with your child.
You can also do this alone. You can read books and articles in your new language.
5. Live-stream radio stations
This is how I learned French. Oh, that and binge-watching “Nouvelle Star.”
This can be done on your own, as I’m sure your little one won’t be too interested in radio station content for adults.
But let me warn you, at the beginning, you won’t understand a thing. You’ll feel like packing it in and giving up. But don’t do that. Like they say, “Anything worth having is worth working hard for.”
6. Sing along to songs in the language. I suggest you do that alone.
I like to sing to myself. I like singing to my daughter, to my husband, to Chairman Meow and Eva Purron (our new feline babies), and pretty much all the time. Now, this isn’t saying that I actually can sing. An ex once said after hearing me singing in the shower, that I sounded like two cats fighting…see why he’s an ex?
Anyway, I digress. My point is that singing songs in another language will make learning a new language fun for you and your little one.
7. Join a penpal website to language exchange to speak to native language speakers
This will help you use your new language. This is a very important part to learning. I suggest using a platform like Conversation Exchange as it’s pretty anonymous and, if you’re a woman, you won’t have to worry about guys attempting to make it a dating site.
8. Change the language of your social media accounts and mobile phone
This will help you with everyday language. At first, it’ll be a bit confusing, but again, stick with it! It was great when I would just punch in an address, and my phone would tell me how to get to a place in the target language.
These are my tips. But before I forget, ignore people that will laugh at you because you mixed up something. These people are usually struggling with immaturity and ignorance.
Happy language learning!