Family Language Learning: 8 Easy Tips to Learn a Language with Loved Ones
Can family be your secret to language learning success?
If you want to get into language learning but haven’t managed it on your own yet, learning with your family might be just the extra motivation you need.
And merging “bonding time” with “family language 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!
- 1. Get Everyone Involved in Picking a Language
- 2. Use Fun, Authentic Media to Learn
- 3. Establish a Daily or Weekly Learning Schedule
- 4. Set Family Language Learning Goals
- 5. Label Items in Your Home
- 6. Play Games in the Target Language
- 7. Have Authentic Dinners Together
- 8. Turn the Everyday into Language Lessons
- Why Learn a Language as a Family?
- And One More Thing...
1. Get Everyone Involved in Picking a Language
Giving each family member a say can help ensure that everyone feels invested in the new family project.
As you decide what to study, discuss the benefits of learning 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 that 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 holiday even more enjoyable.
Still not sure what to learn? Have everyone gather round and read about ones you’re interested in at world-language resource Ethnologue.
Regardless of your reasoning, try to get on the same page to ensure everyone is motivated and excited to learn the language.
2. Use Fun, Authentic Media to Learn
This is a wise tactic for any learner. It’s more engaging than studying a textbook, and it teaches language in context, making it easier to apply what you’ve learned.
Authentic media is particularly great for families. Since each person has different interests and attention spans, you need an activity that appeals to everyone. And unless someone in your house hates entertaining TV or movies, authentic media is a great choice.
Netflix is a convenient source for authentic media. It offers tons of international TV and movies, all captioned in English. Some even offer captions in the same language as the audio.
While learning a language, Netflix is great for listening practice and learning new vocabulary. Even beginning learners can benefit from 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.
FluentU is another helpful option. This video-based learning program has an extensive collection of media clips made by and for native speakers from around the world.
FluentU takes authentic videos—like music videos, movie trailers, news and inspiring talks—and turns them into personalized language learning lessons.
3. Establish a Daily 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 every day from 6:00 pm to 6:15 pm.
- Grammar lessons every day from 6:15 pm to 6:30 pm.
- Target language movie night every Friday from 6:30 pm to 9:00 pm.
Regardless of the schedule you decide on, be sure to write it down somewhere everyone can see it. You can also post and share it on Google Calendar.
This will help everyone anticipate what’s happening and know when to ensure they’re present and ready to learn.
4. Set Family Language Learning Goals
Setting goals in language learning is an important motivational tool. It can help give you direction and a sense of accomplishment as you hit each milestone.
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 goals that are challenging enough that you must work together meet them, but you don’t want goals that are so hard that everyone 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 can then make your goals increasingly ambitious.
If you’re using a language learning program, there may be a place to set goals or track how much time you want to spend learning each day on the platform—also great for motivation!
5. Label Items in Your Home
Labeling items around the house 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 objects.
For families, there’s an additional opportunity to make the creation of the labels a fun and educational experience, especially if kids are involved. Get some craft materials and make the labels together. Everyone knows glitter glue aids learning!
As you make each label, have each person say the word and its meaning aloud. This will give you some familiarity with the word, making it much more likely you’ll remember and recognize it when you see it around the house.
6. Play Games in the Target Language
There are plenty of games out there for language learners, and if you’re learning a language as a family, you’ll definitely have someone to play with.
If you like pre-made games, there are quite a few out there. For instance, you might find bingo for a variety of languages, like Spanish, French and Chinese.
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 use the answers to guess the object. You simply need to limit the game to groups of vocabulary you’ve already studied. If you’ve studied food and animals, for instance, then the object must fall into one of these categories.
If you don’t have enough words to ask clear questions, piece together what you do know until you learn more vocabulary. This can be a fun and engaging way to reinforce vocab words and practice asking questions.
7. Have Authentic Dinners Together
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 it, ask them for their favorite recipes. If you’re not sure what to make, Allrecipes is a good place to start.
Once you have your recipes in hand, look up words for the various dishes, ingredients, utensils and serve ware, and study them as a family. Then, as you eat, 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.
8. Turn the Everyday into Language Lessons
Any shopping trip, visit to the zoo or 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: 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 spot things along the way, 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 pronunciation better.
Why Learn a Language as a Family?
First, family language learning can help with 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!
Further, 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 learners, you can work in a little conversation practice whenever you have a moment.
Family language learning 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 one 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 you have an interest in your family history, it will also give you a new medium to communicate with them, and possibly the opportunity to look over old family documents and heirlooms.
With these eight easy tips, family time could turn into fluent time.
So gather up your loved ones and start your family language learning journey today!
And One More Thing...
If you dig the idea of learning on your own time from the comfort of your smart device with real-life authentic language content, you'll love using FluentU.
With FluentU, you'll learn real languages—as they're spoken by native speakers. FluentU has a wide variety of videos as you can see here:
FluentU has interactive captions that let you tap on any word to see an image, definition, audio and useful examples. Now native language content is within reach with interactive transcripts.
Didn't catch something? Go back and listen again. Missed a word? Hover your mouse over the subtitles to instantly view definitions.
You can learn all the vocabulary in any video with FluentU's "learn mode." Swipe left or right to see more examples for the word you’re learning.
And FluentU always keeps track of vocabulary that you’re learning. It gives you extra practice with difficult words—and reminds you when it’s time to review what you’ve learned. You get a truly personalized experience.
Start using the FluentU website on your computer or tablet or, better yet, download the FluentU app from the iTunes or Google Play store.