MotherTongues: Wear Words, Celebrate Cultures

about words, languages, cultures, travel

Singing our way to 3 languages September 23, 2013

language and music Stevie Wonder

We are a bilingual family, trying to become trilingual. Our kids are fluent in Afrikaans, even though they were born here in the USA and don’t hear Afrikaans outside of our house on a regular basis. So we are always looking for ways to reinforce their second language. One of the ways we have found to work for us, is lots and lots of music.

We love listening to music. When the kids were babies, we listened and sang Afrikaans children’s songs all the time. Repetition helped them to learn the words – it is such a fun way to learn more vocabulary.

Now that they are a bit older, we’re all learning Spanish. Listening to Marta Gómez and Peret help us to get used to the sounds and rhythm of the language. Afrikaans music is still part of our house – the kids know lots of songs by heart.

Here are my tips to use music to help your kids’ language learning:

1. Sing to your kids when they are babies and toddlers, and then sing with your kids once they can follow along.

2. If the language you are trying to teach your kids have DVDs or YouTube videos with singing characters for kids, make sure you get them. In Afrikaans we have Lollos – the kids have enjoyed it for many years. If the songs have subtitles, so much better!

3. Figure out who are your kids favorite musicians in the language of choice, and sing along to the songs in the car.

4. Nurture a love for music in your kids, and who knows where it will take them!


On acquiring language November 5, 2012

I recently watched this TED talk by Patricia Kuhl on how babies learn a language. It is very informative to learn about the research being done on acquiring a new language. She shows how it is critical for a person to interact with the baby: learning sounds through just audio or just television, doesn’t work at all!

In the video, she shows a graph about the “critical period” for learning a language: before age 7. In our family I know our kids have been able to learn Spanish much more easily than my husband and me. But I do have hope that it is still possible to learn a new language(s) after the age of 7!

It is upsetting to me that schools are shifting the learning of another language to Middle School or even later.  We should learn from other countries where second language learning starts in Kindergarten.


Get support in learning a (new) language March 10, 2012

Language Challenge 180

Are you trying to learn a new language, helping your kids to learn a new language, or brushing up on some forgotten language skills? It can be daunting to know where to start, where to find resources, and what online programs to try. But don’t despair, help is here!

Multilingual Living, one of my favorite websites, is hosting Language Challenge 180! It is a free, (yes free!) 180 day challenge, to help you turn your language learning around 180 degrees. More than 600 families have signed up already. We’re getting step-by-step guides to get on track with our language(s), tips and articles to help us along, and best of all for me so far: a place where others, trying to learn the same language(s) as you, post what resources they already found helpful. I find this camaraderie so supportive and helpful.

Just knowing that other families are struggling with the same problems as us, is already helping me along. I struggle with finding time and fun ways to engage our kids in language learning after a full day at school. Language Challenge 180 breaks it into small steps – 15 minutes a day! – and makes it feel much more achievable.

If you have more than one language in your house, and you are trying to grow your language skills, sign up today! I’ll see you over on the forum pages!


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