Language learning by watching television

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Your kids can learn a new language just by watching TV

You’re moving to a country where you and your child need to learn a new language. How best to encourage your kid to engage? They’re under enough pressure as it is, with school, homework, anxiety about the move and all kinds of other child-mind worries. Also, you may not have the time or money to send your kids to formal language classes before you move abroad.

How about making learning fun, and making it as simple as watching television? Yes, your children can learn a new language simply by watching TV! This isn’t the first time I’ve recommended this method, either, as it’s well known to be a way to engage kids in language learning. Plus, as a bonus, it’s quite a relaxing pastime for kids in these stressful times.

Entertaining and educational

Research reveals that children learn quicker when they are interested, engaged, and entertained. For this reason, TV is a great tool for language learning. Children are like sponges when it comes to picking up new words and phrases, and they can learn a lot just by watching their favourite shows.

Most television shows are designed for entertainment, not education. However, the whole point of language learning is to be able to speak to other people in that language. Formal language classes (and school classes) tend to spend a lot of time focusing on grammar, sentence structure and other ‘boring’ things. Watching movies, cartoons and other TV shows gives a more natural insight to speech and conversation, meaning that it’s ultimately much more useful to the learner.

And that learner doesn’t have to be a kid! You’ll pick up loads of language skills, too.

10 tips to help your kids learn a new language from TV

1. Choose age-appropriate programmes

Lingopie has specially selected and changing programmes for children learning Spanish, so you don’t need to worry there will be something inappropriate popping up unexpectedly.

2. Watch with your kids

If the language is new to you too, you’ll also learn effortlessly! Also, it’s important to watch with your kids so that you can help them understand what they’re seeing and hearing. Lingopie has dual language subtitle options to help you, particularly with younger children whose reading skills may not be up to speed yet. You can pause the show when necessary and explain things that they might not understand.

3. Talk about what you’re watching

After each programme, take some time to talk about what happened. Ask your child questions about the characters and the plot. This will help them remember what they learned and solidify the new vocabulary words.

4. Encourage your kids to imitate what they hear

Children not only learn a language quickly, but they are also unbothered by self-consciousness, happily and naturally imitating a native accent. One of the best ways for children to learn a new language is by imitating the people around them. When they watch TV, encourage them to imitate the characters’ speech patterns. This will help them to absorb the new language more easily.

5. Remember how language is learned

I think it’s a good idea to point out here that language learning goes in stages: first is listening, then understanding, and finally, talking. So don’t expect conversations to happen quickly! Think of when your child learned to speak as a baby: they understood you long before they could talk. Languages follow the same process.

6. Ask questions about what you’re watching

Use each show as an opportunity to ask your child questions in the new language. This will help them to practice their speaking skills and become more comfortable with using the new words and phrases. A child loves to be able to teach their parents’ something!

7. Look up words and phrases that you don’t understand

If there are words or phrases that you don’t understand, look them up – if you’re using a tablet to watch the Lingopie programmes, this is simply a quick tap on the subtitle. This will help you to learn the new words yourself and be able to explain them to your child.

8. Connect the language you’re learning to your own life

Try to find ways to connect the new language to your own life. For example, if you’re watching a show about food, talk about how you like to cook or eat certain foods. This will help your child see how the new language can be used in their own life, particularly when they’re living in their new country.

9. Find other resources to supplement your child’s learning

In addition to watching TV, there are other resources that you can use to help your child learn the new language. Lingopie includes them too! Quizzes and flashcards are all part of the fun.

10. Have fun!

Remember that learning a new language should be fun, so don’t put too much pressure on your child. They will progress at their own pace, and you should celebrate their successes along the way.

Why language learning benefits your child’s wellbeing

There are many reasons why it’s beneficial for your child to learn a new language, regardless of where you’re moving. Of course, as an expat parent, you want what’s best for your children and for them to settle in their new home and school as quickly and as smoothly as possible. They’ll be much more comfortable with the transition if they know at least some basic words and phrases before you arrive. Being able to ask directions in school, conducting simple ‘let’s make friends’ conversations with their peers, and having some understanding of what others are saying is vital to their wellbeing.

Even if you’re not moving overseas, language learning is useful for children. It helps them develop a greater understanding of the world and can help your child to be more open-minded. They’ll be more accepting of people who are different from them.

Finally, learning a new language can give your child a competitive edge when they enter the workforce. Employers are always looking for candidates who are multilingual. So, if your child knows more than one language, they’ll have a better chance of getting hired in a few years.

Language learning is fun!

As watching TV is fun and relaxing for children, you do need to make sure to create a conducive environment for learning at the same time. This means no external distractions and setting aside some time each day for your child to practise their new language skills. You know your child best, so decide on a schedule that suits you all while not making it yet another chore, or homework, you end up stressing about.

Try to find opportunities for them to use their new language in real-world situations, if possible, although this may only work when you have finally moved. It does help them to solidify their understanding of the language and become more confident in using it.

For once, you can encourage screen time with a guilt-free conscience!

How to get started learning languages from TV

While I have talked here about Spanish language learning for children in this article, there are also options for you to learn with the same platform! For adults, the range of languages is larger: you can learn Spanish, Italian, Portuguese, French, German, Russian, Japanese and Korean.

Head over to Lingopie for unlimited access and a 7-day free trial.

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