When learning a foreign language, one of the most important ways for students to advance and retain what they’re learning in class is for them to continue practicing it outside the classroom. This can be easier for some students than for others, particularly if they have a parent or relative at home who speaks the language. However, for those students who live in an English-speaking household, there are several things parents can do to help their students enhance their foreign language skills:
1. Ask the student to identify household appliances, furniture, clothing, pets, colors, etc., using the language they are studying.
2. When going to a restaurant, have the student translate some of the items on the menu they are going to order.
3. Another effective way to learn a language is to have the student listen to music in the language they are learning. Even having it on in the background will help students pick up words, then phrases and more.
4. If your student is interested in a hobby, sport, or a special interest, have them learn the vocabulary or review the related instructions in the language they are studying. Doing so can make learning the language fun and more meaningful in a personal way.
5. Watching a television series or movie in the foreign language/target language is another great way to increase comprehension skills, which is one of the most difficult skills to master. There are a few Spanish movies or television shows on Netflix that are recommended: El Gran Hotel, Velvet, Las Chicas del Cable and even Jane the Virgin (when the language is changed to Spanish). These movies and television shows are popular learning tools for high school students learning Spanish. (Please use your discretion to make sure these programs are age-appropriate for your child.)
6. Find a pen pal for your student. This is a classic that should be revived, especially since written communication is so much faster than it was years ago, with the advent of the internet and email.
7. If you don’t have a native speaker in your home, one of the best ways to maintain and improve foreign language skills is to engage a native speaking friend or neighbor to work with your student. One of the best ways to immerse your student is opening your home to an exchange student. By hosting an exchange student for part of the summer, your student can go to the home of your exchange student for the other part of the summer (i.e., a simple swap of students for the summer). I know several students who have done this and they say it’s the easiest way to ramp up their foreign language skills in the shortest time. Immersion is truly the best way to learn.