Unless you’re fluent in a foreign language or studied one in college, teaching a foreign language may be a bit of a daunting task. You might be wondering if it’s really worth it. Here are some preliminary questions to consider as you think about teaching your child a foreign language.
Why should my child learn a foreign language?
Many states require at least one year of foreign language study for high school graduates, and many colleges require foreign language credits for admission. State requirements aside, mastering a foreign language can open whole worlds of opportunity for your children—in ministry, in business, and in academics. Taking a year or two now to learn a language could potentially save your child some time in language school if your child is called to the mission field in a foreign country. In the more immediate future, studying a foreign language gives your child the opportunity to communicate—and potentially share the Gospel—with people they otherwise would not be able to talk to, not to mention that companies are always looking for people who can speak another language and that learning a new language often teaches you a lot about your own.
When should my child learn a foreign language?
God has designed us to be capable of learning entire languages in just a few years when we’re young. Children can become fluent in a language without bothering with grammar or memorization. I’ll always remember the story of how one of my roommates learned Spanish. Her parents didn’t speak to her in Spanish. She learned it when she visited her grandmother in Mexico.
The younger the child, the easier it is for him to learn a new language. But older children benefit from learning a second language since they must spend more time focusing on grammar, vocabulary, and thinking in new ways, which are skills we don’t pick up if we learn languages as children. These skills are also highly valuable for grammar-based skills such as reading and writing.
What language should my child learn?
If you live in a community with a large immigrant population, teaching your child that language might give him an opportunity to practice with native speakers and to reach neighbors who are not yet familiar with English. Not only that, but language studies are also almost always accompanied by culture studies, which may spark an interest in going on a summer missions trip to a country that speaks the language your child has studied. Even studying a dead language such as Latin has benefits. A large portion of the English language has roots in Latin-based languages (e.g., French, Spanish, and Portuguese). Studying Latin can answer a lot of the questions we have about English.
How could I teach a foreign language?
You can enlist the help of a native speaker to model pronunciation, and you can find books and digital resources from the library or on educational apps. There are also many online learning platforms that teach your child a foreign language. Many colleges also offer summer programs for cultural immersion. BJU Press Distance Learning offers courses in Spanish and French for high school students. Each course provides a comprehensive study of the language by introducing vocabulary words, grammar instruction, pronunciation, listening, and writing projects.
View the elementary and secondary BJU Press foreign language subject kits!
Image Sources Maasi Mara by Svein-Magne Tunli/Wikimedia Commons/CC 4.0, Schloss Neuschwanstein, o’ahu & moloka’i by Christopher Michel/Wikimedia Commons/CC 2.0, Eiffel Tower by Wladyslaw/Wikimedia Commons/CC 3.0