5 Ways To Keep Your Little Language Learners Motivated!

Motivation is very important in language learning whether it be an adult or a child. If a child doesn’t have any reason to learn their heritage or second language, they will generally resist and/or give up. Certain techniques are very helpful when trying to pass down a heritage language to a child. I will cover five that I know of off hand here.

1. Travel To A Country Where They Speak The Language

I put this one as number one because it’s my favorite! I love to travel, and it’s so important for kids to get out of their ‘comfort zone’ and hit the road with mom and dad. In our case, we are teaching our son Spanish, and while he is still young, we have already made a few trips to Mexico. It is super important for children to realize there are places where they will have to speak the language to get along. his gives them additional motivation to learn the language at home or hire an online language tutor.

2. Buy Their Favorite Books And Movies In The Target Language

This one is fairly self-explanatory. I read a blog once that talked about how the mom would buy their favorite books on amazon, in the target language, and have them show up as presents from grandma and grandpa; gift wrapped and all! The kids got excited about their new presents, and they were exactly what they wanted. This gave them the extra motivation to devour the material in their ‘target language.’


Photo: Paula Bendfeldt-Diaz. All Rights Reserved.
Photo: Paula Bendfeldt-Diaz. All Rights Reserved.

3. Reinforce The Language In All Conversations

In conversations with the children, if they are prone to switching back to the community language, subtley remind them to stay in the heritage language. Keep speaking in your L2 while they switch back to L1, and hopefully they get the picture. There are conflicting ideas on whether or not you should outright correct them, scold them, or demand they speak the home language. I think this heavily depends on the kid, however being consistent and predictable will help encourage the child to speak their heritage language.

4. Find Groups Of People Who Speak The Minority Language

Finding a church in the minority language or a local club, restaurant, or whatever is a great idea! A place where the child gets some regular use out of their language and can legitimately communicate with other people who speak the same language. If there are grandparents around that only speak the language it is a great perk! Let grandpa and grandma babysit and head out on the town. (my plan!)

5. Encourage Them To Make Friends In The Target Language

Kids talk to their friends all the time. It’s never ending. They talk, play, imagine, create, and role play. These are all great ways to develop language. Creative play and language development has been well documented. Play is a catalyst to language abilities, and one of the things that help children develop their language skill. If they do this creative play with other children in their heritage language, it will only reinforce it. It also, obviously, allows for more exposure to the minority language.

These are just five quick ideas to help you make a more comprehensive plan for your child’s linguistic development and encourage their bilingualism. Combine them, expand on them, and tweak them to fit your personal situation. There are so many benefits of being bilingual and reasons to encourage it, as well as ways to do it, and it’s astounding. Consistency is key in raising bilingual children!

Jeffrey Nelson

Read more articles from him at LivingBilingual.

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32 thoughts on “5 Ways To Keep Your Little Language Learners Motivated!”

  1. Encouraging bilingual children to speak the language is key to keeping them connected to their heritage! I forgot to put this in my last comment, but I wrote a post you may also like. I’ll tag it below 🙂


    • Awesome! Hopefully he just dives right in! Remember, if there is someone he just loves to get presents from.. just pretend they are from that person! If that person is you, that’s even better 🙂

      Good luck and keep us updated!


    • Muchas gracias! Si, no es nada facil pero lo podemos lograr, no? Yo creo que si! Ojala y les pueda seguir dando consejos que funcionan ya que estoy viviendo este milagrito con mi hermosa familia!


  2. Me encantó eso de buscar grupos que hablen el mismo idioma… Para definitivamente que la mejor manera de hablar un determinado idioma, es practicarlo… Excelentes recomendacione.

    • Gracias Teresa! Y si… dicen que es muy importante que los ninos vean a otros ninos hablando su lenguaje minoritario. Los ninos obviamente quieren quedar bien con sus amiguitos asi que los anima un poco mas echarle ganas apredner! 🙂


  3. Los tips están muy buenos. Me encanta el de unirse a grupos donde se hable el mismo idioma, creo que es una manera muy efectiva para practicar y reforzar el conocimiento de la nueva lengua.

    • Gracias Cristina!

      Si, yo tambien creo. El chiste aqui en donde vivimos my esposa y yo es encontrar un grupo asi con el que nos llevamos bien todos! 🙂 Pero si lo estamos logrando mas o menos. Tambien, nuestro “grupo” de Familia nos ayuda exponer nuestro bebito un poquito mas al lenguaje.


  4. Me encantan tus consejos, mi hija mayor habla muy bien el Español pero estoy en ese proceso de enseñarle a la menor, tus recomendaciones son excelentes, practicar en casa e ir a sitios donde hablan Español son recursos sumamente efectivos en nuestra experiencia, gracias !

    • Reina,

      Que padre que te han gustado 🙂 Si.. yo creo que la experiencia fuera de la casa es de las cosas mas importantes! Los ninos tienen que ver que haya necesidad aparte de la vida familiar! Si los puedes convencer de eso, lo de mas es mucho mas facil.


    • That’s awesome! Yeah, everything I’ve heard/read says the best way to get them speaking is to ship them off to the country where the language is spoken! 🙂


  5. Great ideas! I think #1, #2,and #5 are especially fun for older children like mine (7,9). When we do not have a big trip to a Chinese-speaking city. I take them to the neighborhood ethnic markets or stores for a field trip. Making reading in the target language a routine and with their favorite books it is fun. Having friends who are the native speakers of the target language really pushes the language learning into a different level.


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