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What to Teach: Foreign Languages

Foreign Language (ages 0 - 5)

Human brains experience a critical period of growth before the age of five.  Scientists have discovered that when infants are exposed to different sound patterns and languages, their brains cells grow more connections that make them even smarter.  So, expose your babies to foreign languages, especially those with very different and strong sound patterns such as Chinese, Japanese, French, etc.  Chinese may be especially good because each character's sound is very distinct and thus very different from most other languages.

Neither you nor your babies need to know what they are hearing -- they just need to hear it.  You can just play the sounds as background noise.  They don't need to pay attention to it at all.

How do you get foreign language sounds?  Try YouTube.  If you have friends who travel, ask them to buy some kids' CDs or DVDs.  Foreign DVDs may not play in your DVD player because of region locking.  Use a converter such as DBlot to get rid of the region locking.

My brother sent me a Disney DVD from Europe that has five different languages on different audio tracks.  That's one great investment!

If you know a foreign language, then speak to your kids in that language often.  Not only do they get exposed to the sounds, they actually learn a different language for good.  Don't worry about their English -- they'll learn it very quickly once they attend any type of school.  

Foreign Language (ages 5+)

What you ask your kids study may be limited by what's available to you.  If you speak a foreign language (perhaps your native language), then that ought to be the one you teach because they'll have opportunities to use it.  If you don't, then find what's available.

Generally, at that young age, they learn very quickly from their peers, but they may resist learning it in a classroom environment.  If you have neighbors who speak another language, then let your kids play with them and ask those neighbors to use their native language as much as possible.  Or you can find babysitters who speak a different language.  It's unfortunate that most of our public schools don't teach a second language in grade school.  Here's one charter school that has a full dual immersion program: http://www.lewiscenter.org/NSAA/Dual-ImmersionDoble-inmersion/index.php

There are some online and offline foreign language courses for children:

Dino Lingo -- they have Latin too!  Here are some arguments for learning Latin & more reasons.

Muzzy by BBC/Early Advantage -- I tried this but my kids weren’t interested.  The story line was not suitable for very young children.

Rosetta Stone, the homeschool edition

Foreign Language for Kids by Kids

To encourage and help them learn, please do it with them instead of just throwing them in front of the TV or website.  Make it a family event.



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