Today is International Mother Language Day. It was approved at the 1999 UNESCO General Conference and has been observed throughout the world since 2000. The date represents the day 21st February 1952 when four young students were killed in Dhaka, the capital of Bangladesh - then called East Pakistan - during a protest to officially preserve their mother language, Bengali.
Languages are the most powerful way to preserve and develop culture and to promote it all across the world. In honor of a day that celebrates language diversity, here are some fun and easy ways we can teach young children, around 2 to 7 years old, a different language at home.
1 What’s in the box?
My kids love rummaging through boxes to find ‘treasure’. Fill a box with items or toys from around the house - basically whatever vocabulary you want them to learn - and ask them in the other language “What’s in the box?”. Their job is to fish out items from the box and say what it is in the language you’re teaching. For older kids, you can have them say the full sentences to answer your question.
2 Sous-chefs in the kitchen
Have your little ones help you make simple meals in the kitchen so they can learn words for fruits, vegetables, dairy, bread and other food items in other languages. Along with nouns, it’s a great way to learn verbs like ‘eating’, ‘cooking’, ‘drinking’ and ‘enjoying’. Bon appétit!
3 Bilingual Books and Flashcards
For an enhanced language learning experience, bilingual children’s books and flashcards are a great tool to add to your family’s bookshelf. Whether you read the books at bedtime or play with flashcards during the day, these teaching aids will make a positive difference for your little linguists.
4 Color hunt
Shout out the name of a color in a different language and have your kids find objects around the house in that color. Then put the items in a box and play the “What’s in the box?” game! it’s an effective way for children to retain the names of colors and objects in different languages.
5 Daily language time
And finally, set aside some time daily, around 20 minutes to half an hour, when you and your little ones can goof around in a different language. Activities could include going outdoors and calling out actions in another language that your children will then perform, such as “dance!” or “jump!” or “run!”. Or it could be simply looking at songs or videos in a different language on YouTube together. Whatever fun activity you choose, remember to keep the learning light and fun so kids can look forward to it.