Teach Your Child a Second Language at Home with 5 Key Steps

All you need is one person to raise a multilingual child

How do I teach my child a second language?

You’re not alone if you’re wondering how kids can learn a foreign language. This is the most common question for parents who want to raise bilingual children. To help you teach your child a second language, I’m sharing this 5-step action plan to jump-start your family’s learning journey at home.

How to teach your child a foreign target language

When giving advice on teaching a second language to kids, I prefer to use the term “target language” rather than “foreign language”. The words we choose can have a powerful impact on our mindset.

Target suggests that goals are in place to teach a child a second language. It primes your mind to prioritize the minority language. Meanwhile, foreign implies that the language is strange and unfamiliar.

In our family, the target languages are Chinese and Korean due to our family’s heritage. To make these languages feel familiar and less foreign, I gradually implemented five key steps into our children’s daily routine.

However, the teaching steps can apply to any second, third, or fourth language.

Ways to teach your child a second language at home

After reading these tips, download the printable action plan at the end of the post!

Related: How to Raise a Bilingual Baby

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1. Speak the target language at home with kids

How to teach your child a second language - to do list

If you’re bilingual and want your child to learn a second language, the first thing to do is to start talking. The sooner, the better, but it’s never too late to start.

In the beginning, parents often feel uncomfortable about switching to the minority language. Take a deep breath and have faith through the initial awkwardness.

Over time, it will become a habit to think and reflexively reply in the minority language. Consistency is key!

If you don’t speak a second language (yet!), consider hiring a caregiver or tutor to teach your family. Check out these ten ways to find a language teacher for kids.

2. Teach your child a second language through songs

Because singing and dancing are naturally fun, music has the power to transform your home into a bilingual learning environment.

You can definitely teach your child a second language through songs!

In elementary school, many American students learn to sing Feliz Navidad (Merry Christmas) in Spanish and Frere Jacques (Brother John) in French.

Decades later, people often still remember the lyrics!

Since our family is learning Chinese and Korean, here are songs that we recommend exploring with your children.

3. Learn a second language from audiobooks and videos

Busy parents will appreciate these low-prep tools! For extra language exposure, audiobooks and videos can introduce your child to a variety of native speakers. This is especially true for older children and teens.

Instead of watching TV shows and movies in the dominant language, look for your target language on Netflix, Disney Plus, and Amazon Prime.

Disney Plus App Kids Movies

In addition, audiobooks are a powerful and relaxing way to hear new words in any language. Consider these websites and apps with free multilingual audiobooks for kids.

4. Make the second language visible in your home

Visual daily routine chart for kids - free printable in Chinese, Korean, English
Visual daily routine chart in Korean and Chinese

In addition to listening to the language, make it obvious to the eyes. If your child can “see” the second language around the room, this can spark curiosity.

When the second language is visible, it can also remind kids and parents to speak the language.

Look around your home and take note of what labels, signs, and books you see.

To make our minority languages become the majority at home, I started collecting Chinese books and Korean books. I also started adding Korean and Chinese labels to create a print-rich environment in the target languages.

5. Teach your child a second language with fun activities

Hands-on experiences make language fun, natural, and memorable for children. When kids are in school full-time, they are constantly creating new memories with friends in the dominant language.

If we want our kids to learn a second language at home, we need to consider the after-school experience.

  • What can we do to make it more special?
  • How can we connect with our children meaningfully in the target language?

By observing a child’s interests, you can find ways to make the minority language fun at home.

Does your child love hide-and-seek? Start playing the game in your second language!

Is your kid interested in art? Mix language learning with creative crafts.

Whatever it is that your child likes, be it soccer, hopscotch, or animals of the world, integrate learning with those interests!

If you’re lucky enough to have sports, dance, or other lessons in the target language, take advantage of those opportunities.

Kids learn much more from relevant experiences than being forced to plow through a textbook.

Need inspiration? Check out our Educational Bilingual Activities Library!

Teach your child a second language with a printable action plan

Ways to Support a Child's Second Language at Home - Chalk Academy

Having your plan on paper is like having a roadmap to guide your family.

Start your child’s bilingual journey by downloading this printable to-do list and action plan.

Hang it on your fridge or frame it on your desk as a gentle reminder. You’ve got this!

More tips for teaching a second language to kids

What second language are you teaching your child?

Please share your experience with the community in the comments below. Your story matters, and your candid sharing can inspire another family.

6 Comments

  1. Like others mentioned, I too find myself getting easily overwhelmed and emotional by the desire (and need) to teach my son the target language (English while living in Finland and being surrounded by Finnish speakers). Thank you so much for good, clear advice! I will use it for sure!

    1. Thank you so much for sharing your experience, Emily! I’m so glad to hear that the article was helpful!

  2. Thanks for this post! It is very helpful. I am trying to teach my children Mandarin as well but it is mostly speaking. They do poorly in reading and writing. Will definitely try your tip #4 and #5! I want them to learn a bit of Filipino as well so this a good post to guide me ^^ Love your blog and instagram account ^^

    1. Hi Jan! Thank you so much for taking the time to read and share. I hope the tips help your kids with learning all languages! Keep me posted on how things go, keep persevering!

  3. Wow this is super helpful! Thanks for breaking it down. I find myself getting overwhelmed, having a short list like this will help me stay focused. Thanks!

    1. Thank you for the kind feedback! I’m so glad to hear that it’s helpful. I also get overwhelmed, but I think succinct, focused to-do lists make goals more attainable! Best of luck to you!

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