Learning a language on your own can be an incredibly rewarding experience—but also a lonely one.
That tends to be true whether or not you’re learning a language that’s widely spoken in your local community. While immersion is an effective way to learn, it can also be difficult to find yourself surrounded by individuals who don’t share your native language or your language learning challenges.
For that reason, many of our students find it beneficial to learn alongside family members and/or friends. Here in Montreal, where roughly 35% of the population are immigrants (of whom many are allophones), learning French together as a family is frequently a necessity rather than a choice.
Even for those who are in the city temporarily and don’t “need” French, however, learning the language can be a great way to feel more at home in la belle province, while other families may wish to learn English to open up career and educational opportunities.
Whatever your reasons, if you find yourself learning a language with loved ones, we’ve got the tips to set you on the right path and make learning enjoyable for the whole family!
It’s true that children have an advantage when it comes to achieving native-like fluency in a language, but that doesn’t mean they’re going to be any more interested than you are in dry, repetitive memorization tasks. Turning language learning into a game benefits children and adults alike.
Gamification has been utilized by the creators of numerous language apps and software programs to help learners pick up new vocabulary, and our very own teachers are big fans of using games and other interactive activities—like story cubes—to make learning a little more engaging. Use your next family game night as a way to unwind together while simultaneously developing fluency!
Does your family love reading the Harry Potter books together? Or maybe you’re always first in line to see the latest Marvel film? Many popular books, movies and series are available in dozens of languages, and your existing familiarity with the stories can make engaging with them in a different language a far simpler task.
We’ve written before about the benefits of language immersion, but that doesn’t have to mean moving abroad or enrolling in an intensive study program.
Brainstorm as a family and come up with creative ways to immerse yourself in the language you’re learning right at home. For example, set aside an hour each day or week when you only communicate in your target language, or enrol in a non-language class (e.g., pottery, yoga or cooking) that happens to be delivered in that language.
If it’s within your means, a family trip to a destination where your language of choice is spoken is a great incentive for family members of all ages to learn.
Labelling things around your house with the appropriate names in your target language is a tried and true method of vocabulary acquisition for many individuals, as it’s said to help those learning a language instantly associate the items with those names rather than have to translate the words from their native language. Families can also try exclusively using these names to refer to the items when speaking amongst themselves.
When small children are acquiring a language, they couldn't care less about how “perfect” their grammar and pronunciation may be—whether they’re speaking in their mother tongue or in a second, third or fourth language. Kids boldly use whatever language they have at their disposal to communicate their needs, and if you ask us, adult learners could stand to learn something from them.
While learning from one’s mistakes is an important part of achieving fluency, this process can’t take place if one is too afraid to make mistakes in the first place. Follow your kids’ lead and get comfortable expressing your thoughts, opinions, needs and wants in the best way you know how—and enjoy the surprising boost in confidence that is sure to follow!