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Can You Teach Your Child a Language You’re Not Fluent In?

The majority of parents probably wouldn’t mind having their children grow up speaking more than one language. Whether it’s learning Chinese because of its global influence, or acquiring the native language of a country you’ve immigrated to, learning more than one language is certain to give your child a head start in life. However, many times parents don’t have the tools at their disposal to help their young ones achieve fluency in another tongue. After all, how can you teach them a language you don’t speak well or fluently? Read on to find out if it is possible to teach your child a language you don’t know, or are new to yourself, and learn some methods to help them progress in their language learning!

Child on the playground

Photo via Flickr



Experts usually agree that the best, and most effective way to learn a new language is through immersion, and no doubt any child would benefit hugely from being completely immersed in foreign language. However, the reality is that sometimes this just isn’t possible. You may not live in a country where the target language is the native one, but that doesn’t mean immersion can’t be achieved in other, more creative ways. If your child plays online games or watches kids’ shows, why not find games, shows, and books in the target language for them to look at instead? During vacation time, travel to a country where the language is spoken, and improve your language skills alongside your child. Or find a friend or family member who speaks the language fluently and have them spend time with your youngster only talking in the target tongue. If you surround your child with the language as much as possible, you’ll be surprised at how much they’re able to retain.

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There is very little progress in language learning without a good learning program, and there are lots of excellent tutors, teachers, and language schools out there that can cater to your child’s specific needs (and make learning fun). You can try to put together a curriculum on your own, but as a non-native speaker and a language learner yourself, you may struggle. It’s just easier and more efficient to find a professional who can give your kid a well-rounded learning experience. If you couple this with the above immersion methods, your child should be well on their way to language proficiency!

mother and daughter

Photo via Flickr



This is the part where you as a parent can be more hands-on (and learn a little yourself)! If you want consistent progression in a language, you’ll need to use it every day, which means carrying out conversations in that target language with your child. Growing up, my mother—who wasn’t a native Spanish speaker—wanted me and my siblings to improve our language skills, so every day she would set aside 2 hours where we would only speak to one another in Spanish. We’d go about our regular tasks, whether it was doing homework, making dinner, or completing chores, but we’d have to do all this in Spanish! In the end, both my mother and us kids ended up learning a lot of new vocabulary and becoming much more comfortable with using the language. You can apply this same concept with your own child. If 2 hours seems like too much time, start small, maybe 30 minutes a day. Keep a dictionary on hand so you can look up words you don’t know, and don’t be shy about giving out corrections, or taking them.

Group of kids on playground

Photo via Flickr



It’s unlikely that you’re the only parent out there who wants their child to learn another language, so discovering more like you shouldn’t be all that difficult! Finding a group of like-minded people is an excellent way to make sure you’re staying on track. You can pick up learning tips from other parents, and give your child a chance to meet kids who are speaking the same language or languages! Nothing in your area? Start your own learning cooperative where you can get together with other language learning parents and kids and take part in fun activities or group classes. You might also meet parents who are fluent in a language you want your child to learn, and that exposure could be great for both of you.

Are you trying to teach your child a language you’re not fluent in? What are some of the things you struggle with? Share your experience with us in the comments section below!