1st April 2018

Learning a New Language as a Family

You’ll probably have to put in twice as much effort as the kids just to keep up with the pace at which they’ll evidently make progress, but learning a new language as the whole family can come with advantages that go far beyond the obvious new skill of being able to communicate in another language. It makes for one of the best family bonding rituals in existence, testimony to which is how you watch your children grow and learn to speak their mother tongue.

I’ll revisit these added advantages a little later on. For now focus turns to some pointers to consider by way of your approach to the exercise of learning a new language as a family.

Every member should participate

If you’re serious about the family learning a new language together then you should perhaps formalise the lessons by attending a weekly class or two or even taking some classes together online. An ideal scenario would perhaps be if there’s a nanny who speaks the language you all want to learn, but it should indeed be a family exercise which involves everyone.

Remember that kids pick up new languages a lot quicker than adults, so you might have to be the one who is the target for extra motivation to keep at it.

Identify an associated goal as a reward

Direct rewards usually don’t work too well when a family is trying to learn a new language because of the different pace at which each member will naturally make progress. Some kind of reward is required though and the best reward in this particular instance is that of something to look forward to which will make for an enhanced experience as a result of the newly-acquired language skills.

If you’ve confirmed an upcoming trip to Portugal for later on in the year for example, there will be no lack of motivation to make as much progress as possible. It’ll be an enhanced experience of the destination for the whole family, even if only one of the family members is communicatively competent in the new language.

Encourage individual learning

While this would generally be a family exercise, individual learning should also be encouraged. So if someone wants to download an app which helps them practice whenever they get some free time then that should only be encouraged. Don’t make it come across as a competition though, but rather just an encouragement to make as much progress as possible.

Now, getting back to the advantages of learning a new language beyond the obvious one of being bi-lingual or multi-lingual, since language comes with a whole lot of nuanced culture with it, you get a window into a whole new world if you learn something like Portuguese for example. Nuances form around the culture of Portuguese speaking countries, so a simple phrase which Angolan, Brazilians, etc take for granted might make for a uniquely rich cultural experience for you if you’re predominantly English speaking, for example.

I swear – it’s some very interesting stuff you discover through the power of language.

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