Hey! It’s Lauren here, the Language Mindset UK-based blogger and fellow language lover. Hope you enjoy the post!
I remember the first word I learnt in another language like it was yesterday.
I was impatiently waiting to disembark a plane for a family vacation in Spain when the word ‘salida’ caught my eye. I hadn’t given much thought to languages before then, but suddenly, I was curious. And that curiosity only grew stronger as we explored Alicante.
I returned home from the trip easier to learn Spanish, only to find that the school I was at didn't offer it. Instead, I had to settle for French, which was considered more ‘practical’ for UK school kids.
Naturally, 12-year-old me wasn’t motivated to learn a language for practical reasons. So, although I took French, I found it incredibly difficult because I wanted to learn something I was interested in, not something that might benefit my future career.
And I bet your kiddo feels the same.
When we talk about which languages we should learn, we often focus on practical reasons. German is good for business, Mandarin is good for the future, Spanish can open doors…
But we rarely include the most important factor of them all: curiosity.
Curiosity is crucial for success in language learning. It’s what motivates us to keep going and makes it easier to learn.
And that’s especially important for children who, let’s face it, aren’t motivated by potential career opportunities.
So, in this post, we’re looking at a few not-so-practical but totally valid reasons to choose which language your child should learn so they’re more likely to stick with it.
ONE: Family background
Learning a language from your family’s heritage can be an incredibly rewarding motivation for your kiddo because it goes beyond exploring a new culture; and connects them with their heritage, which can help them develop a stronger sense of identity.
Note that interest is key here, though. If the decision to learn that language doesn’t come from them, there’s a chance they’ll view it as a chore and become demotivated.
TWO: Their friends
Your kiddo’s friendship group may also influence the language they’d like to learn. If they have friends who speak another language, they may be naturally more motivated to learn, so they can understand and relate to their peers.
This also creates a fantastic opportunity for immersion, which is a more enjoyable and effective way to learn.
THREE: Your location
It goes without saying that where you live can directly impact your kiddo’s interest in languages.
If you live in an area where your kiddo regularly encounters another language, this may spark a desire to learn.
I know these aren’t supposed to be practical reasons, but it’s definitely useful if you can easily expose them to the language.
FOUR: Their interests
Your child’s existing interests can be a good starting point for deciding which language they should learn.
For instance, if they enjoy ballet or karate, they might like to learn French or Japanese to learn more about the culture behind them.
When a language aligns closely with their hobbies and passions, it becomes more than just a subject to study; it becomes a tool to engage in activities they love.
FIVE: A trip or culture
Exploring a different place can spark curiosity in your kiddo and create a desire to learn more about the culture through the language.
If your child has ever expressed an interest in the culture of a country you’ve visited - or simply one they’ve heard about - why not encourage them to explore that?
Deciding which language your child should learn isn’t about practicality.
Any and every language they learn will benefit them by building their confidence, developing their communication skills and making them a more empathetic, globally-minded person.
So, rather than approaching the decision by thinking about the future, consider what will motivate your kiddo now.
Because the more interested they are in the language, the easier it will be for them to stick with it.
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