By Amelia Orozco
As a parent, you have the power to control most of your child’s education. You can broaden the way your child interacts and learns in a primarily English-speaking school by exposing him or her to different languages and cultures at home.
To help your child understand another language, start by integrating words from the second language into English sentences. Work the new language into your child’s vocabulary by considering:
- Same and Different
Point out similarities and differences in the words.
- Fun Sounds
Sound out words that feel fun to say. Like singing, this helps your child learn the word’s meaning and the reason to use the word.
- Use the Senses
Let your child touch, taste, smell, feel, and see things that relate to the word. It will help your child permanently remember the words better.
- Connect to Culture
Connect the word’s cultural meaning by taking a field trip, leafing through a magazine, or listening to a song.
By naturally incorporating another culture’s practices—not just its language—into your child’s life, he or she develops not only a bilingual vocabulary, but also a comfort in the unfamiliar and a taste for adventure. To help your child learn more about different cultures:
Try new foods unique to a different culture. Explain which cultures eat that cuisine and show your child where the food comes from on a map.
Learn a traditional dance routine with your child and talk about where the culture performs that type of dance. For example, your child can learn the different reasons that people dance by showing your child la plena, where the dance and song act as a live newspaper for the town.
Listen to traditional music connected to that language’s culture. Your child will learn different sounds. If you know the instruments that make those sounds, you can also teach them about music.
- Surf and Watch
Many online sources feature videos that teach children other languages. Children’s television stations offer programming that teaches children vocabulary in other languages and exposes them to different cultural traditions, like Dora the Explorer. Start with stations like Nickelodeon, The Disney Channel, or PBS.
Finding cultural meaning expands your child’s worldview. The varied environment you provide at home will establish a strong foundation for the learning experiences ahead.
Amelia Orozco is the senior editor and writer at the Chicago Zoological Society/Brookfield Zoo and a community and entertainment reporter for TeleGuía Chicago. A mother of three, Amelia also maintains an active role in her community and church by working with youth and promoting education and diversity through her writing and volunteer efforts.