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Ideas for Making Foreign Language Fun


Learning a new language is work.  You can't just plop kids in front of a video screen and let them enjoy the ambiance of French.  They really need to work at it.  Success with foreign language requires being consistent every day.  The problem with foreign language is the same problem I have with Weight Watchers.  It only works when you actually DO the program!  So sad... but so true.


Just because it's work doesn't mean it can't be fun, though! Whatever you end up using for a foreign language curriculum, supplement with some fun activities.


Movies.  Did you know that almost all DVDs have alternate languages?  Most movies will have language options like French, Spanish, German, etc.  When you watch a children’s movie, the vocabulary will be simple, allowing children to enjoy language exposure while watching movies on TV. About once a week we would watch movies in a foreign language; Finding Nemo, The Incredibles, for example. Since these were movies my children almost had memorized, we could watch it in French, or turn on French subtitles, and really have fun. You don’t have to understand everything they say on the movie, just understand what’s happening and listen to the spoken words. My kids loved that! If you use Disney and Pixar films, you don’t even notice that the lips don’t match – and it’s a fun way to laugh and joke while getting your 15 minutes for the day.


Video games.   Set video games to another language. When John Nordlinger, senior research manager for Microsoft Research’s gaming efforts, wanted a refresher on his French, he started playing “Everquest” — the multiplayer online role-playing game — in that language.


Volunteer. Many social services have a high percentage of foreign speaking people.  You can locate a food bank, clothing bank, or other resource that serves people. Spanish is nice because there are always people and things to help with pronunciation.


Facebook. If your teen loves Facebook and is able to write a short sentence, have them try Facebook in another language.  What a wonderful opportunity to try working their foreign language skills in a fun way!  It sounds like it would be a great fit for a highly social child! To set Facebook in French, go to Settings, Account Settings, and then Languages.  Watch out they don’t set it for “Pirate” or “Pig Latin” however.  Those are languages that colleges don’t seem to value as much <smile!>


iPad.  You can watch foreign language channels on your iPad or iPod and practice your foreign language skills! Find the iPod app called “TVU.”  You can’t get your local channels, but you can get channels from across the country and the globe!  The app is much cheaper than cable, and you can get channels that broadcast in the language you want your children to learn. There are dozens of foreign language channels, including some in French, German, Chinese, Japanese, Korean, Arabic, Italian, Swedish, Norwegian, and some lesser-known African and East Asian languages.


Livemocha.  Livemocha allows people around the world to help each other with language learning, and provides our community with opportunities to learn and practice new languages together.  It’s quite a time commitment, but many of my clients really enjoy it. http://www.livemocha.com/


Travel. Traveling in other countries can help children learn different languages while experiencing the art and culture of other countries.  If these were done during high school, then you can give high school credit for the whole experience.  It was never in my budget, but what a wonderful opportunity for a supplement.


These can make foreign language studies more fun AND more successful!   I would love to hear YOUR ideas on making foreign language more fun!



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Comments 2

Guest - J W on Saturday, 31 December 2011 18:24

Because it's me (Mom) and two girls in our school, we had a problem with practicing formal and masculine modes of address until we brought in teddy bears who are male and must always be addressed formally!

For awhile, we made the grocery store a "French Only Zone" unless we were talking to someone else. It was a good way to beef up or food vocabulary (ha ha).

Movies were good, but the problem there was the subtitles weren't faithful to what the actors were saying. The subtitles were in stilted, "bookish" French and sometimes abridged. The actors spoke much more colloquially.

Now we're embarking on Latin. It'd be interesting to speak it publicly amongst ourselves and see if anyone catches on.

Because it's me (Mom) and two girls in our school, we had a problem with practicing formal and masculine modes of address until we brought in teddy bears who are male and must always be addressed formally! For awhile, we made the grocery store a "French Only Zone" unless we were talking to someone else. It was a good way to beef up or food vocabulary (ha ha). Movies were good, but the problem there was the subtitles weren't faithful to what the actors were saying. The subtitles were in stilted, "bookish" French and sometimes abridged. The actors spoke much more colloquially. Now we're embarking on Latin. It'd be interesting to speak it publicly amongst ourselves and see if anyone catches on.
Guest - Sara (website) on Saturday, 31 December 2011 18:17

I love these ideas - especially the language settings on familiar videos! I did once reset the microwave to Spanish! LOL! Thanks and Happy New Year!

I love these ideas - especially the language settings on familiar videos! I did once reset the microwave to Spanish! LOL! Thanks and Happy New Year!
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