We’d like to share some thoughts on a common question for parents: how can I motivate my child to practice and be comfortable with learning a second language?

Children raised in Laval already have a head start when it comes to learning a second language. Bilingualism is a part of life in Canada, and Quebec in particular. However, most kids have a preferred language—one that they choose when speaking and texting with friends, watching TV, or reading.

Here are a few tips for making your child more comfortable with that second language.

1. Exposure at home is key

Kids need to be exposed to a language regularly in order to be comfortable with it. Sometimes an hour in the classroom is not enough. Speaking it around the house is ideal (see tip #2), but there are other, more subtle ways to bring a second language into your house: music, film and television geared toward their age group, language setting on home devices, etc. Be creative!

2. Try ‘one-parent-one-language’ rule

The best way for kids to get comfortable with a language is to spend time with someone who speaks it fluently. If one parent speaks a second language, try the one-parent-one-langue rule: have one adult speak only in the second language. At very least, this will at least get your child listening to the second language regularly. If no one in the house speaks the second language, try to arrange play dates or visits with relatives where the second language will be the one primarily spoken.

3. Take a trip

If you live in Laval, you don’t have to take a plane to immerse yourself in a second language. Try taking your child to a primarily English or French neighbourhood. A trip to the grocery store can help your child brush up on some vocabulary—perhaps they can even talk during the transaction at the till. If the second language is neither English nor French, try to find an ethnic grocery store where they’ll interact with some familiar and new words. We live in a diverse city so take advantage of it! 

4. Learn about the culture

A language is more than a set of words, it’s part of a culture. If you can inspire an interest that culture for your child, they might feel more motivated to learn the language. Again, be creative here; it can be a meal, a film, or a vacation—anything that makes the culture behind the language more tangible and tantalizing for your child.

5. Recognize progress

Learning a language is a slow process, so it can easy to overlook progress. Be sure to take a step back now and then to reflect on how far your child has come. A little encouragement goes a long way!

Bilingualism is a lifelong asset. Your child may not realize it now, but that second language could someday enhance their career prospects, their travel plans, and maybe even their love life! Fluency in second language is a long journey. Now is the time to start. 

Do you have language-learning strategies you’d like to share with us? We’d love to hear from you!

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