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Tip Tuesday #177 - Tim Johnson on Teaching Children a Second Language

Tip Tuesday features writers' tips on craft, research, querying, blogging, marketing, inspiration, and more. If you'd like to send in a tip, please e-mail me at agentspotlight(at)gmail(dot)com.

Hi everyone! I have something a little different today. Tips on teaching children a second language from children's author Tim Johnson. You can find Tim at his website, and his books on Amazon.  Enjoy!

Remember when your child said their first word?  Maybe you're still waiting for it.  This is a great time in their lives because they are putting sounds together based on what they hear around them and starting to structure their own little vocal chords accordingly.

If you're considering raising your child to speak a second language, you should consider doing it sooner rather than later.  Children who grow up hearing a second language around them are far more likely to speak with a native accent when they get older.  Adult learners may have the ability to learn several languages, but without the developmental stages of hearing these languages and constructing appropriate vocal patterns, you may never speak like a true native.

The first step to getting your children comfortable with a second language is simply, exposure.  This is seemingly a simple concept, but should not be underestimated.  They are spending so much time listening to the sounds around them, even if they are seemingly busy doing a vast magnitude of other things, and contemplating how they might make those sounds when the time comes.

Here are a few things to try to build their exposure to a second language:

Listen to music.  Even though sometimes lyrics are difficult to understand, the intonation and accent are often apparent.  Even better, the cadence and prose with which song lyrics are delivered offer the opportunity for more structured, left-brained, associations to arise.

Read books.  Children’s books are a wonderfully engaging way to encourage exposure to a second language.  Even if children don’t quite understand all of the words in the story, they are easily engaged in the illustrations, and over time they will build correlations between illustrations and the words.  It is also easy and engaging to point to parts of the illustration and use the appropriate vocabulary.

I am the author of several dual-language books which are written in two languages, with side-by-side translations that are actually designed to teach foreign language or English as a second language.  The translations also include highlighted words in both languages so that simple correlations in vocabulary can be made when reading.  Many of the illustrations are labelled in both languages so that children can, in addition to hearing the words when you point to the pictures, can actually SEE the words and letters of the second language and immediately relate them to the picture.

Tim Johnson discovered the power of bilingual books while visiting Japan as a teenager. In 2011 he started writing the Adventures of Bosley Bear series with the hope of reading these books to his own future children and exposing them to new words and sounds.

Now Bosley Bear is recognized around the world and Tim is committed to continuing the series and educating children about foreign language and culture for years to come. Tim works as a mechanical engineer, and author, and lives on the seacoast of Maine with his wonderful wife and two incredible twin boys.


 

23 comments:

  1. Bilingual books especially for younger children are quite famous in India. They introduce new sounds, words and a new world to children.

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    1. That's good to hear! I haven't yet published any of my books in India, but maybe this is something I should consider. I don't know much about the language but I have heard that there are hundreds of different dialects in the Hindi language that are spoken all over India and are quite different from one another. Is there an official dialect that children's books would be published in?

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  2. I lived several years in Japan and used to speak Japanese better than English. (Don't remember much now.) Emersion is the key.

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  3. Emerson definitely helps when there are many dialects. Your illustrations look very engaging.

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    1. Thanks Brenda, everyone loves the illustrations. Sorry I didn't see the comment earlier!

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  4. Children are amazing in their ability to learn quickly. I still remember much of the French I learned in school, but in my forties I tried to learn German and totally failed. Thanks for all the tips, Tim!

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    1. No problem Lexa! Glad you enjoyed the article. It's amazing how much leaves our brain when we don't use it.

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  5. Ah, I wish I had given my kids more exposure to other languages when they were young . . . but, now they are learning anyway.
    I remember learning several songs in French as a kid, and then became exposed to it in the classic books my mom forced me to read - however, French came a lot easier in high school because of those experiences.

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  6. Kids' brains are so fluid and they can pick up nuances we can't find! Casual exposure to the language is a great tip!!

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  7. I wish I'd had exposure to a second language as a child. I learned to count to ten in Spanish in kindergarten, and to this day that is about all the foreign language I know. I took Latin in high school and college, but I never felt like that counted because it wasn't spoken, everything was written translations.

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  8. That's awesome! I definitely think children should be exposed to other languages sooner rather than later. It's so much harder to make these other languages stick when you learn them in high school, college, and beyond.

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  9. I did read a couple books in Spanish to my kids when they were young, but that's about as far as it goes for them, unless you consider the opera and classic music I make them listen to. Hey, if they ever want to speak Latin, Spanish, or Italian, we're all good to go. =)

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  10. I think this is a great idea. I wish I hadn't waited till my kids were in high school to teach French.

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    1. Teaching young is good, but as long as they have a purpose for it, and an opportunity to use it, they will be just fine.

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  11. Yes, it's always easier when they're younger. I wish I had learned several languages long ago.

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  12. I wish I'd had the opportunity to learn another language when I was a child. Kids are like sponges - they soak that stuff up.

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  13. Early exposure to other languages is a great a great aid to learning languages. I didn't really get the concept of conjugating verbs until I took Spanish.

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  14. I am sure you are right about learning languages at a young age. I learned Turkish by taking a class in Turkey where the instructor only spoke Turkish in the class, which I think is a Peace Corps immersion method. It worked very well.

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  15. Tim Johnson undoubtedly doing enormous job by teaching kids second language. Learning a foreign language is very important for everyone. I hope students really enjoys learning from Tim.

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    1. Thanks for the great compliment Jennifer! The books have been very well received and I will be publishing more all the time.

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  16. Will be sharing this post with my sister, who is looking for ideas on how to raise a bilingual child (she and her husband speak English and Japanese). Thank you!

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  17. Thank you so much to all those who commented on this article. Admittedly I had not subscribed to the comments and missed most of them when they were posted in December!
    If you missed the opportunity to teach your children a second language as kiddos, have no fear! If you can find some element of value or purpose to your child's language learning; make its usage something that they understand and appreciate, I'm sure they will have all the motivation they need to keep it up into adulthood if only in the back of their minds.
    I have friends in Japan and learned a lot of Japanese as a teenager. I find great value in being able to speak Japanese because of those relationships I have. Even though I don't use it all the time, I find that when I do need it, it is still right there, because in the back of my mind I'm always thinking about when I might need to use it and practicing a little bit here and there sometimes even subconsciously.

    I've got my fifth Bosley book slated to be released in March for anyone interested. Check out the website, or follow me on facebook for more info and updates ;)

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