Learning a new language has many cognitive benefits. A second language challenges the brain to make connections and improves attention span, concentration, focus, and ultimately, builds stronger multitasking skills.
From improving our chances to secure a job position or better salary to opening the door to new cultures and ideas; speaking an additional language carries many advantages. No wonder why more and more individuals are looking to learn a new language!
As an individual grows, it becomes harder to learn a new language because the brain is busy processing a lifetime of information and making connections! A young child, on the other hand, has yet to discover the complexities and considerations of a vast world, making it easier to pick up on a new language.
Parents are always looking to equip their children with tools that represent an advantage in a very competitive world. It is common for our agency to receive requests from families seeking bilingual nannies who can teach their children a second or third language. But, what if you don’t need to speak a language to successfully teach it to a child? With a little preparation and creativity, you can help any little one learn a new language! Here are a few tips:
Build your Confidence and Get Familiar with the Language
Your nanny family may ask you to teach a specific language, or you can offer the opportunity. Either way, you must become familiar with the language and feel confident before teaching it. Go online and do some research, learn its letters and the sounds they make to help with pronunciation.
Our favorite apps are:
Duolingo - Duolingo offers free courses for dozens of languages. Its self-paced exercises help you build a basic understanding of a new language or grow your multilingual repertoire.
Memrise - Memrise gives real-world applications to each of the words you learn and simple ways to pronounce and remember their meaning. For example, rau means “bad” in Korean. To remember this, your flashcard will show a raw chicken and state: Don’t eat “rau” chicken. It is really BAD for you.”
Pick a Theme and Select Vocabulary
Teaching a new language requires some simple lesson planning! Start by picking a topic and identifying simple related vocabulary. Explore the web and learn the proper pronunciation and spelling of the words. For example, if you are teaching Spanish and selected The Colors as your theme, write down the colors in both English and Spanish and practice their pronunciation. Red – rojo (rro-ho), blue – azul (a-sul), green – verde (ber-de), and so on.
Plan Activities and Incorporate the Vocabulary into them
Once you select your theme and become familiar with the words and their pronunciation, it is time to introduce them to the child. Plan creative ways to do so; for example, use our Ice Painting Curriculum and introduce the colors while they paint their masterpiece. Think of other ways to challenge their mind to relate the word in Spanish to their meaning in English; for example, write down the colors in Spanish in sticky notes and have the children find objects around the house and mark them with the sticky note.
Read books or listen to songs in the language you are introducing
Add value to storytime by reading a bilingual book together or listening to a bilingual audiobook. There are a lot of resources in local libraries and online where you can find read-aloud bilingual versions of books. The app Libby provides free access to thousands of audiobooks by simply linking your library card!
You can also learn nursery rhymes or listen to songs in Spanish with your nanny kids. Remember to ask parents for their authorization to use electronics!
Repetition, repetition, repetition!
Once you have introduced the vocabulary, have your nanny kids use or hear the words in different situations. Make up a song using a familiar tune or nursery rhyme to help them remember and pronounce the words. You can also substitute the words in a conversation; for example, when offering a snack, instead of saying - Would you like a green or a red apple? - substitute the words by saying - Would you like a Roja or Verde apple? Encourage the use of the word in Spanish instead of English when expecting an answer.
Don’t worry about the grammar at this point! Your main goal is to help the kids make connections between the words in Spanish and their meaning in English. Repetition is how the brain practices association between both languages and, remember, practice makes progress!
Learning a language takes time and practice. Even when not bilingual, you can still expose your nanny kids to a new language and prepare and challenge their brains to make new connections. Consistency and exposure to different words and phrases build their knowledge of a new language!
Take a look at our “Light Bulb Moments Ideas and Activities” blog posts to find inspiration and suggestions of themes paired with fun ideas to expose your nanny kids to Spanish! If your family is seeking a stellar bilingual nanny, explore our nannies here. If you are a bilingual nanny with a passion for education, apply here.