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9 Practices to Boost Your Kids’ Language Skills While Traveling

It’s a proven fact that people who speak foreign languages have stronger cognitive and communication skills – they have higher chances to build an outstanding career in whatever field they work in. And there is no doubt that foreign language skills are essential in the modern multicultural world.

Do you want to raise a successful child? Make sure to use every opportunity to develop your kid’s language skills. Travel to foreign countries and imply the following practices to encourage your son and daughter to learn languages.

Stay closer to locals

As the saying goes, “practice makes perfect”. The more your kids talk and communicate with locals while traveling, the more they will improve their language skills.

As a parent, you should ensure that your kids have enough opportunities to interact with locals. When considering a place to stay, you should opt for Airbnb accommodation (or apartments designated for locals) rather than a world-famous chain hotel accommodation. If you make such a choice, your kids will immerse themselves in the local culture and enjoy more small talks with native speakers.

Imagine you want your kids to speak Spanish. You are currently planning a trip to Cancun, Mexico. What accommodation option will you choose?

If you stay at a luxury hotel, let’s say Marriott or Hyatt Cancun Resort, your kids will unlikely get enough language practice. Since hotel staff speaks English and the vast majority of hotel guests are English-speaking foreigners (mostly Americans and Europeans), your kids will not have many opportunities to practice their Spanish.

But what if you choose another option and rent the first floor of the house owned by a welcoming Mexican family? Your kids will communicate with the host family and their neighbors in Spanish and eventually become more fluent.

Read every foreign word

The human brain is capable of memorizing 50 new words per day. If your overseas vacation lasts seven days, you may expect that your kids will learn around 350 new words.

Do you want to help your kids memorize even more foreign words? Always ask them to read the words written on price tags, billboards, menus, etc. For instance, if you want your kids to remember the names of fruits and vegetables, you can take them to the local farmers market and ask them to read the words written on price tags. It’s a great way to use visual clues to enhance the memorization process.

Sing songs

Do your kids like to listen to music and sing songs? If so, you can use music to help your kids to learn a language. Choose a few popular local songs, check translation online, and offer your kids to learn the lyrics.

Every time your kids hear these songs in cafes or shopping malls, they will sing these songs repeating the lyrics. It will help little learners memorize new foreign words and improve pronunciation. Kids will try to pronounce the words the way a singer does it – this simple exercise will help your kids with accent reduction.

Limit screen time

thedesigntourist2 1Screen time is an enemy of good. If your kids spend most of their daytime staring at their phones, they will unlikely improve their language skills. Here are a few tips on how you can manage screen time while on holiday:

  • Establish no-tech zones. Don’t allow your kids to use their phones in cafés, restaurants, during excursions, etc. Ensure that your kids use this time to communicate with other people and make new friends.
  • Don’t use screen-time as a reward or punishment – it will not help you make your kids less dependent on their phones. Remember that your main goal here is to enhance the intrinsic motivation of your kids to explore the foreign culture, not to make arguments about phone usage.
  • Be an example to follow. Use your phones to take photos and make important calls only. Don’t use social media and other sites and apps in front of your kids.

Don’t laugh at your kids

Have your kids just started learning a new language and have a very strong accent? Don’t laugh at them! Never. And don’t allow other family members and friends to make jokes on this topic. Jokes may offend your kids, and even worse, it may kill their motivation to practice their speaking.

If you are fluent in a foreign language, help your kids understand what words they pronounce correctly and incorrectly. Find the right way to show your kids how they can improve their accents and feel more confident talking to foreigners. Explain to your kids that everyone makes mistakes when speaks a foreign language, and assure them that they have nothing to be ashamed about.

Fall in love with local culture

What motivates kids and adults to learn a specific language? Their interest in the culture this language belongs to.

So if you want to get your kids passionate about language learning, help them fall in love with local culture. Encourage them to try out as many local activities and local foods as possible. Show them the most exciting traditions of the region. Introduce them to the most interesting people. Take them to the most beautiful places and show them the most spectacular attractions.

For instance, if you want your kids to learn Japanese, you should show them the best places in Japan and offer than to try out local food other than sushi and noodles.

Once your kids realize how amazing a local culture is, they will want to improve their language skills to be able to explore this culture to the fullest.

Take your kids’ opinion into account

Do you want your kids to enjoy your family trip while also being enthusiastic about learning foreign languages? Make sure to provide your kids with freedom of choice. Let them decide what country/city your family will go to, what attractions you will see, and what local meals you will try. If you listen to your children and consider their preferences, you will keep them engaged while traveling.

Well, it doesn’t mean that you should allow your kids to manipulate your decisions and always do whatever they want. You need to provide your kids with a few options and let them express their opinion. For instance, if your kids learn German, you can ask them where they want to go: Berlin, Munich, or Vienne. If they choose Vienne, you can ask them whether they want to visit Schönbrunn Palace, Château d’Angles-sur-l’Anglin, or Vienne Opera.

If you follow this strategy, you will make your kids happy. Your son and daughter will feel the true joy of exploring new places and learning foreign languages of their choice.

Recognize the value of language skills

Everyone wants to feel valued and important, and your kids are not an exception. You can motivate your kids to be more dedicated learners by showing them how valuable their language skills are.

Imagine your family travels to Paris. Your 13 years old son is the only person in your family who speaks some French. How will your family communicate with locals? Here you have two options.

The first option is you will try to talk with Parisians in English.

The second option is you will ask your son to play the role of translator. Your son will try to translate the words from a menu, ask locals for information, and complete other small tasks in the way he can.

What will happen if you opt for a second option? Your son will see how important his skills are. He will understand the true value of his knowledge. It will motivate your son to learn French and develop his language skills.

Help to find new friends

thedesigntourist3 1Are your kids shy? Do they have trouble with making friends? If so, you need to assist your kids with making new connections while abroad.

Here is an example of how you can help. You, as a parent, can make friends with other parents (local family) and invite them to take a day tour together. In such a way, your kids will spend a day with the kids of your new friends and will get plenty of opportunities to practice their communication and language skills.

Basically, your main task here is to show your kids that they shouldn’t be afraid to talk to foreigners and make new friends. Once your children overcome their fear – they will advance in their speaking skills.

Wrapping up

The more your kids will travel the world, the more interested they will be in learning languages. So if you have an opportunity to take your kids on a trip, make sure to use it.

And remember that you don’t have to spend lots of money on luxury hotels and expensive tours. Your family can stay at a cheap hostel and enjoy free activities. Whatever your income level is, you can organize a fantastic trip that will change your kids’ attitude toward foreign cultures and language learning.

Travel more with your kids, encourage them to speak foreign languages, and they will thank you later.

Author’s bio. Jessica Fender is a professional writer and educational blogger at WritersPerHour. Jessica enjoys sharing her ideas to make writing and learning fun.

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Karen LeBlanc

Karen LeBlanc is a travel host and writer with a popular travel show, The Design Tourist, and a companion lifestyle blog. As a widely published travel journalist and content creator, Karen is a member of the North American Travel Journalists Association. She also serves as the Design and Travel editor of the national lifestyle magazine, LaPalme. Karen believes that every destination has a story to tell through its local art, architecture, culture, and craft. This immersive creative exploration begins with authentic accommodations where the narrative of place unfolds through art, accessories, accouterments, furnishings, fixtures, and food. 

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