Family can be the greatest gift you ever receive.
It can also be the reason you have to ask what the puddle in the corner of the living room is (please say apple juice, please say apple juice) and who left it there.
But can family really be your secret to language learning success?
We think so.
And merging bonding time with learning time is a great recipe for more quality time.
So try out the eight easy tips below to start learning a language as a family tonight!
Why Learn Language as a Family?
First, learning a language as a family can help add motivation. Since you’re learning as a group, you’re accountable to multiple people, so you won’t want to get caught slacking. Plus, if your family is competitive, the desire to outdo each other might make you study even harder than you otherwise would.
Plus, learning as a family gives you built-in conversation partners. Practice is essential when learning a language, but you can’t always have a native-level language exchange partner at the ready. However, if you have a household full of other language learners, you can work in a little conversation practice whenever you have a moment.
Learning a language as a family is also a fun group activity. Everyone loves a game night or movie night. They’re a fun way to break up the daily routine and reconnect with those you love. But when a fun group activity also helps you learn a language, the experience is that much better.
Finally, if you’re learning a heritage language or language already spoken by some of your family, it can help you connect with loved ones and/or your roots. Not only will it show your relatives that you have an interest in your family history, it will also give you a new medium to communicate with them, and possibly to look over old family documents.
Family Time! 8 Easy Tips to Learn a Language as a Family
Get the family involved in picking a language.
Giving everyone a say can help ensure that everyone feels invested in the new family project.
As you decide what language to pick, discuss benefits of different languages. For instance, you might consider learning a widely spoken language (like Spanish or Chinese) in order to communicate with more people.
Otherwise, you might consider if you have relatives who speak another language who you’d like to be able to communicate with better.
Or maybe you have a particular vacation destination you love where another language is widely spoken—learning that language could make your next vacation even more enjoyable.
Still not sure which language to learn? Have everyone gather round and read about the world’s languages at world-language resource Ethnologue.
Regardless of your reasoning, try to get everyone on the same page to ensure everyone is motivated and excited to learn the language.
Use fun, authentic media.
Using fun, authentic media to learn a language is wise for any learner. It’s more engaging than studying a textbook; plus, it teaches language in context, making it easier to apply what you’ve learned.
But while authentic media is great for any learner, it’s particularly great for families. Since each person will have different interests and attention spans, you need an activity that can appeal to everyone. And unless someone in your house hates entertaining TV or movies, authentic media is a great choice.
FluentU is one very convenient source for authentic media. FluentU offers real-world videos, like music videos, movie trailers, cartoons and more. It converts them into powerful learning tools by providing annotated captions that give you easy access to any word’s definition, example sentences and associated images. There’s even a quiz mode you can use to test your learning together.
Plus, there’s material and quizzes for all levels, so even if you’re all complete beginners, you can start using FluentU as a family right now!
Netflix is another helpful option. Netflix offers tons of international TV and movies, all of which are captioned in English. Some even offer captions in the same language as the audio. Once you’ve learned a language, Netflix is great for listening practice and learning new vocabulary. However, even beginning learners can benefit by listening to native speakers, since this can help you get a better ear for pronunciation.
Once you all have enough vocabulary, you might even discuss what you just watched in your target language for a little extra speaking practice.
Establish a daily and/or weekly learning schedule.
Coordinating learning with multiple people could be challenging, so it’s important to set a daily and/or weekly schedule.
You might have a set study time each day or schedule different activities on different days of the week. For instance, vocabulary study everyday from 6:00 pm to 6:15 pm. Grammar lessons from 6:15 pm to 6:30 pm. Movie night in your target language from 6:30 pm to 9:00 pm every Friday.
Regardless of what schedule you choose, be sure to write it down somewhere everyone can see it and/or post and share it on Google Calendar.
This will help everyone anticipate what’s happening and remember when to ensure they’re present and ready to learn.
Set group goals.
Setting goals in language learning is an important motivational tool. It can help give you direction and a sense of accomplishment.
When learning a language with your family, though, it’s important to set group goals together. If every family member has different goals in mind, you might wind up learning different skills at different times, making it more challenging to continue learning as a group.
Try to make your goals ambitious but realistic. You want to have goals that are challenging enough that you must work together meet them, but you also don’t want goals that are so hard that your family starts to feel demotivated.
For instance, starting out, you might consider making it your goal to learn 15 common words within two days. With a little effort, this goal should be reachable by both children and adult learners alike. Once you learn more and more, you might make your goals increasingly ambitious.
If you’re using FluentU, there’s a simple feature that helps you set daily goals around how much time you want to spend learning each day. As you learn, you’ll get points for extra motivation!
Label items in your home.
Labeling items in your home is a tried-and-true method for language learners, but for families, it opens up even more opportunities.
The basic idea is that by labeling items in your target language, you can easily learn vocabulary for common, everyday items. This remains true for families, as well.
However, for families there’s an additional opportunity to make the creation of the labels a fun and educational experience. Especially if kids are involved, you might consider making the labeling an event.
Get some craft materials and make the labels together. Everyone knows glitter glue aids learning! As you make each label, each say the word and its meaning aloud. This will give you some familiarity with the word, making you much more likely to remember and recognize it when you see it around the house.
There are plenty of games out there for language learners, and if you’re learning a language as a family, you’ll finally have someone to play with.
However, what’s perhaps even more exciting is that you can create your own family language game out of existing games with whatever rules you deem fit.
For example, one game that’s easy to adapt to language learning is 20 Questions. To play 20 Questions, one person thinks of an object. Then, other players ask yes or no questions (up to 20), and the person thinking of the object responds. To make this game great for language learning, simply limit it to groups of vocabulary you’ve already studied.
For instance, if you’ve studied food and animals, then the object must fall into one of these categories. If you don’t have enough words to ask clear questions, you can piece them together with what you do know until you learn more vocabulary. This can be a fun and engaging way to reinforce vocabulary and practice asking questions in your target language.
Have authentic dinners.
One way to increase motivation to learn a language is to connect with the culture(s) that use it, and food can be an amazing tool to do so. As you’re learning your language, try to have authentic dinner nights whenever possible.
To do so, plan a menu around authentic dishes from a country or region that speaks your target language. If you have family members who speak your target language, ask them for their favorite recipes. If you’re not sure what to make, though, Allrecipes is a good place to start.
Once you have your recipes in hand, look up words for the various dishes, ingredients, utensils and serveware, and study them as a family. Then, as you have your dinner, try to use as many words in your target language as possible. Even if they’re interspersed with plenty of English, this is a good way to reinforce your food vocabulary while connecting with a relevant culture.
Turn everyday excursions into language lessons.
Any shopping trip, visit to the zoo or even leisurely drive around town can easily be converted into a language lesson.
To do so, you might prepare a vocabulary list ahead of time and try to use as many words from the list as possible. For instance, if you’re visiting a zoo, you might all try to name each animal in your target language.
Perhaps even more fun, though, is to appoint someone to be in charge of your translator or dictionary app. Then, as you go through your day, you can make it a game to shout out words for that person to look up. For instance, if you’re on a long road trip, you can just spot things along the trip to look up, like street signs, roads, cars, trucks, etc.
After looking up a word, the person in charge should play the translation repeatedly to ensure correct pronunciation. Then, you can all say the word together until you have it down.
If you have family members who speak your target language, you have an even better opportunity. Invite them along on your next outing and ask them to supply key vocabulary words. Not only is this a fun way to connect with a relative, it will also help you learn native-level pronunciation.
With these eight easy tips, family time could turn into fluent time!
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