A new language at school

By Drum Digital
07 May 2014

Is your child in Grade 8 and learning a new language such as French or German? Knowing an extra language can be an asset but learning it can be overwhelming for a child, especially while adapting to all the changes of the first high-school year. Your child might be battling with the new vocabulary and grammar. Here are hints on how you can help.

Make use of technology

There are a variety of smartphone apps that help you learn languages. Try the DuoLingo app (for iPhone and Android devices). This free app offers courses in Spanish, French, Italian, German and Portuguese. The app could be a fun way to reinforce and expand the vocabulary learnt at school.

DuoLingo makes learning a language feel like a game and you get points for every level you complete. You can listen to the pronunciation of words and this encourages you to use the words you’ve learnt in context. Take a look at duolingo.com.

If you don’t have a smartphone there are various web pages you can use from a computer. For example, look at the BBC’s free website for learning French: bbc.co.uk/languages/french.

Invest in a good bilingual dictionary

There are dictionaries especially made for learning a language. Try Oxford’s Learner’s Dictionary series. It gives clear translations, helps with sentence construction and often includes a section with everyday phrases. Such a dictionary can be valuable when doing homework or writing out orals.

For the serious French learner

If your child is really serious about learning French and you’re prepared to pay the fees, the Alliance Fran?aise (learnfrench.alliance.org.za) is an outstanding aid. This international organisation has branches in, among others, Cape Town, Johannesburg, Port Elizabeth, Somerset West and Potchefstroom. It offers a variety of professional courses at various levels.

At home

Vocabulary is the building blocks of a new language. Learning sentence construction is necessary but it’s only when your child has a significant vocabulary that they’ll feel they can speak the language. Allow them to stick notes on various items in the house to learn their names in the new language. Or help make flash cards that can be used to learn words for a test.

Involve the rest of the family with learning new words to prevent your child feeling isolated and to enable them to see the language is just as strange and new to others. Ask your child’s teacher how you can be more involved.

Be optimistic

It’s important to motivate your child if they become despondent trying to learn the language. Remind them of the advantages of being able to speak a foreign language. It might be a good idea to encourage them to focus on all the new words and sentences they’ve already learnt rather than on their test marks. A good mark doesn’t necessarily mean one can speak the language. Work together to find out about exchange possibilities to for example Germany or Spain when they’re older. This will give them something to aim for and look forward to.

-Suzaan Hauman

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