Creating Infinite Possibilities for Language Learning (Part One)
Exposure Consistency in language learning is key for surrounding your child with an infinite amount of possibilities to learn a target language. In an earlier post we spoke about how you can create a print rich dual language environment in order to help your child learn a second language. Now, in part one of this two-part blogpost, we are going to talk to you about why it’s important to expose your learner to as many opportunities as you can for mastery of reading, writing, and speaking skills.
Let’s get real for a second! As Muslims, everyone wants to learn Arabic because it’s the language of the Quran which we were instructed to read. It’s the means to understanding the depths of our religion without any misinterpretation. Then there are some us living in non-Muslim countries who make it a goal to relocate to a primarily Arabic speaking country. Sometimes we do so with the hopes of becoming immersed in the language, being represented as the norm, and/or as a protection for our families—the root of making Hijra.
Whatever our reason is, we often share similar goals. But, the difference between those families that make results happen, and those who don’t, can be determined by the degree they expose their children to the target language on a consistent everyday basis. What does this entail? Getting clear about your goal, identifying steps you actually focus on, and then executing them. Here are some steps that we believe lead to exposure consistency for language development:
1.) Reading vocabulary words, or your target language for at minimum 20 minutes a day. This is a simple strategy we were taught back in primary school but it is the glue for helping words seep and etch into your memory especially when you do it on a consistent basis. It’s also key to understand that the best books to read for learning a language are books without your home and or primary language included. Sometimes this can serve as a crutch. Before you know it words will start to blend together, and as humans we tend to reach for the familiar. Sometimes this is out of sheer laziness, and at other times it is because of our automatic reliance on our dominant language.
Whatever it may be--make it a priority to get your family reading and encourage everyone to keep a word journal. Here’s the gist…Learn a new word, add a new word to it. Add a new word, write down its meaning. Write down its meaning, have your child also draw a picture or a doodle to help them make a connection to the word they just learned. You can even go to our free stuff section and click on download to print as many free word journal sheets as you would like. Then bind them in a spiral booklet or mini binder to create a word journal.
2.) Forcing yourself to use your target language is also key. Enroll your learner in classes on the weekend, or a dual language school. Also, hiring a tutor, or babysitter that doesn’t speak English can make a big difference. Making it a priority to surround your child with an environment that fosters the use of the language in both spoken and written forms is crucial for its development. Even if you can’t afford to place them in learning opportunities as such, then it comes down to you turning your home into a fortress of learning which can give your child what you say you want. This is because it begins with you and stops with you as the parent by the grace and mercy of Allah azza wa jal. Yes, we know, it’s easier said than done!
3.) It is critical to step out of your comfort zone. Encouraging your child to make friends with children whose home language is your targeted goal. This is important for exposing them to an opportunity where they can communicate for fun and practice. Model this by also becoming friends with speakers of the other language. Plan play dates, invites sisters and their children over for tea and an afternoon chat, or a stroll in the park. Prep and plan before you hang out. Memorize phrases to use, and questions to asks.
In preschool, my son once had a teacher from Japan who learned English within one year’s time. She was exposed to the basics back home in her schooling experiences, however shared after I inquired, that she didn’t really acquire English as a second language until she had forced herself to use it on an everyday basis. How did she do this? She only watched TV and listened to news radio in her target language. Also, she would read as many things as she could—from street signs to magazines to books to newspapers. And the biggy--she only made friends with people who did not speak Japanese thus opening herself up to a world full of infinite English learning opportunities.
Although it may be hard for us to be that disciplined because of the realities of our everyday lives—there are little things we can try to be consistent with in our quest for our families to become bilingual.