New Year New Language New Benefits for Your Child

Remember those language learning labs in junior high school? Those labs with headsets, the classrooms with written workbooks full of verb conjugation and a teacher who followed a curriculum vs. her students' capabilities combined to create absolutely the worst (and least) effective method used to teach a second language. That is why those of us who took languages back in the days of middle school being called junior high school remember just a few choice words (and probably pronounce them incorrectly!).

Today, as parents and as educators, we know the importance of raising our children to be bilingual. We see and experience this ever-shrinking world of ours and encounter endless opportunities to test our own bilingual skills. We know from recent research and the barrage of studies thrown at us that the secret to success is introducing the new language early in life. Why, even TIME and NEWSWEEK Magazines ran feature articles on the window of opportunity to introduce a new language is between birth and around the age of ten to twelve.

What most of us do not know, however, is how to bring this language learning into our homes and our daily life. We struggle with the question of how to find a language program designed for very young children, will we need to have teaching experience or command of the new language in order to make the learning successful in our home or our classroom, and how can we incorporate the second language learning into our daily routines? As parents we need convenience in this new language program (we cannot even find time to read a book some days so make this one fit our daily life routine please!). Do not give us a manual that we have to read through in order to help our child (we cannot even get the Sunday paper read!). We desire a language program created by someone who really knows children and really knows language learning (we really want something that provides results and will not drop to the bottom of the toy box!).

And could someone please make it so we do not have to make monthly installment payments to pay for the language learning program (we all know how much we spend in the first year of life!). Parents and educators use the internet more and more to research many things prior to buying. Try this approach when looking for a language program for your child. Use your favorite search engine prompting keywords you might find in the title of this future learning tool for your child (teach Spanish to child, bilingual DVD, French music CD for child).

Then look for language programs that include visual learning (68% of the population learns visually), learning with music (what child do you know who does not love music!), beginning reading in the new language (subtitles in the DVD, language cards or board books are great tools) and some type of verbal exchange (even if it involves prompting the child to speak back to the TV on occasion). Make certain you are allowed to sample the components of the new language program on the internet. Most programs allow you to see video clips and/or hear parts of their songs.

Look for a true bilingual method of teaching for any child who falls between the ages of birth through ten. Seamless transition from the native language to the new language is crucial during the first five years of life. Many experts agree that while the child is still acquiring skills in his native language you should be introducing the new language alongside the native one.

Hearing only the new, targeted language for a long period of time with no point of reference will not work as well with children before the age of five. Make sure the language learning program is affordable and is truly integrated with several components (not just a video you play over and over or one CD you listen to time and again). The program should create a multi-media classroom for your child for his certain ways of learning, moods and methods of acquiring new information. Look for bright colors, captivating scenes, easy-to-understand lyrics in the songs and a simple, engaging presentation that brings the two languages together for your little one.

Does the company offer support services? Is there a toll free number to call with live people who really know the language program (or is it just a call center)? Do they value their customers by offering things such as a resource newsletter, access to additional teaching ideas via their web site and follow-up contact? Have families tried these products, and what testimonials are provided to hear their feedback? How long has the company been offering these language learning tools, and how are the creators/owners professionally connected with the early childhood education field? All of the factors mentioned in this article combine to provide a great start to what could prove to be a lifetime of language skills for your child. Remember, even if you choose Spanish today for your child and she chooses French later in life, you have given her the head start on connecting the neural pathways for language learning. Resolving to give your baby, toddler or preschooler a head start this year on becoming bilingual should be top on your list of New Year's Resolutions for both you and your family.

Beth Butler is the creator of the BOCA BETH Language Learning Series for young children ages birth - ten. Visit and learn more about second language learning fun. Call toll free to 1.877.825.2622 or Ms. Butler's cell phone for an interview to 1.813.244.1432.


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