Learning a foreign language over the summer
Summer’s here! Now what? Before your kids jump into the lackadaisical days of summer, consider one new element that could not only change their brain structure, but also their future, for the better: learning a foreign language.
Learning a foreign language changes the electrical activity and the structure of the brain. It can also strengthen your memory, make you a more marketable job candidate, benefit your communication skills, and strengthen your appreciation for diversity and new cultures.
While becoming fluent in a few short months isn’t the goal here, simply making a foreign language a priority over summer break is. Here are some ideas:
Watch foreign movies or listen to music.
Trade out the typical Netflix show for one in a different language. Not only will you start to hear new sounds and repetitive words, reading the captions will help your brain connect how words are both spelled and pronounced.
As for music, tunes help our brain remember. Even if you don’t understand what you’re hearing, the words become more accessible to your brain. Use a phone or dictionary to translate words as you start to recognize them.
Find a pen pal.
A simple Google search brings up dozens of websites that help connect pen pals who speak and are trying to learn different languages. This not only helps develop skills in a new language and new friendships; it also normalizes the challenges and sometimes embarrassment of trying to speak a new language that you don’t fully understand.
It is uncomfortable to try to communicate when you risk being misunderstood or not understanding someone else. When two people take that risk together, there’s a camaraderie and level of acceptance that boosts confidence.
As with all screen time, make sure you are monitoring your kids. If the pen pal situation graduates from sending letters or emails to live chats, draw some boundaries for your kids to keep everyone comfortable and safe (i.e. no making plans to meet in person, all chats must be read by mom, etc.)
Get an app.
There are free apps for screens that make learning a language fun and engaging with games and helpful audio/visual effects. While a summer without screen time might be ideal, it’s probably unrealistic for many families. This helps make time in front of the screen educational!
Schedule themed nights.
As you learn vocabulary, verb conjugations, and new letters and sounds, find ways to immerse your family in the culture. Research a country or region that speaks the language and include all aspects in your family fun night: music, food, dress, and special customs like eating on the floor or saying a special toast or blessing.
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