I remember the first day of 7th Grade when I walked into my Spanish 1 class. We were given new names (Bethany was now Betania) and started the class by singing the Spanish alphabet. I was like Kindergarten all over again. When I was growing up, schools did not start offering language classes until at least middle school. Now in 2017, language immersion and dual language programs are extremely popular. In fact, they have such high interest, most schools have to implement a lottery system for enrollment.
We made the choice to prioritize language learning after reading about the science behind the benefits of speaking multiple languages from birth. Specifically, the book Brain Rules for Baby by John Medina, outlined the many cognitive, emotional, as well as social benefits of raising a multilingual child. As we talk with others, the number one reason that inhibits most people is the cost of language lessons. Today, I want to give you a list of 8 free online language learning resources. These wonderful platforms will help you and your family get started on your language learning journey.
How to Teach Multiple Languages from Home
When our daughter was 6 months old and I went back to work, we chose to hire a nanny who spoke the local language. Since birth, she has learned Russian, Latvian, and French fluently through immersion at home. The nanny would speak one language to her and my husband and I spoke English. As my daughter grew older, we continued her language learning by putting her in language immersion programs. Now that she is in Kindergarten, she is trilingual. She attends a Spanish immersion school in Northern Virginia. After school and on weekends, she attends French language classes.
However, a child’s first and most important teacher are their parents. To support and encourage our daughter learning languages, we practiced with her as well. We supplement what she is learning at school and in language classes at home every single day. Each of the resources I will share with you below contains options for audio books, streaming books, downloads for on the go reading, bath time, airplane rides, etc.
There are no worksheets or dry, repetitive vocabulary drills. Experts claim that learning a language while you hear the reading of it in context in the form of books will accelerate your language mastery.
For further advice on how to teach languages from home, read my parent interview HERE.
Bonus: Scroll down to find the best language resource that you may not know about, but is already in your home!
This website gives you access to some of the best children’s literature from all over the world. Moreover, it also gives library news and notes so that you can read about special events near you.
Here you will find online books and translations indexed by languages and reading levels. This website is run by volunteers who are passionate and committed to giving the gift of literacy to young children all over the world.
This website has 250 free e-books for you to share with your child, as well as simple ideas, top tips, activities and games to help your child with their reading at home.
This website allows you to write your own book to match the illustrations; a fantastic tool for vocabulary development in your mother tongue or using your new language vocabulary, which is why it is used in the US Peace Corps curriculum worldwide.
An incredible resource for jump starting your child’s language acquisition in English, French, Spanish, and Chinese by offering books that instill confidence in young readers with books about first experiences such as a first plane ride or first haircut.
Free Language Learning Resources for Military Families
Transparent Languages is a free and AMAZING resource for hundreds of lessons in your language of choice; for you very fortunate military (retired, active duty, dependents), click HERE.
You need to sign up at your closest Base library, and when you log in, they give you a code for the google/android/apple app. After your initial sign up, you can access Transparent Languages on all your mobile devices.
Free Language Learning Resources Already in Your Home
Remember, the more proficient a child is in their mother tongue, the more proficient they will be in other languages. They need to be literate in their first language to become competent readers in other languages. For this reason, I highly recommend subtitles or close captioning ANYTIME you turn on a screen. This method of using close captioning so children are reading while they have screen time is most popular in Finland. By the time Finnish students are in 3rd grade (9 years old), they consistently have the highest reading scores in the world.
You can also use closed captioning/subtitles for language learning. On most of your DVD/Blue Ray discs as well as Apple TV, Netflix, and Hulu, you have the option for selecting many different languages. I do not allow my daughter to watch any TV without during on closed captioning and/or subtitles. For us, we have the audio play in Spanish or French with English subtitles for her to read along for language practice.
Bonus Tip: It Takes a Village to Raise a Reader
The general rule of thumb is that your child needs 25 hours of meaningful language practice per week, so we’ve got to use the resources around us. Find a playgroup in your desired language, and pay attention to people in your everyday local surroundings. Our Walmart checker was from Ghana and was able to have a whole conversation with my daughter in French while I was buying house supplies. We asked him for his work schedule and will definitely try to make our Walmart run when he is working. We also attend the weekly Spanish language story hour at our local library.
There are so many hidden ways to incorporate language learning into your lifestyle. You can sign up online through the US State Department to be a host family for international visitors. There are frequent foreign nationals or families that come to various cities around the United States and are in need of a home cooked meal. It’s a win-win for both parties; they need to see something other than the inside of a conference or hotel room and your family needs conversation lessons. If you can accommodate a long-term house guest, you can go the extra mile and host a teacher or student in your home for an extended period.
Click HERE for volunteer hosting opportunities.
Whether you’re learning a new language for fun or out of necessity, these resources will guarantee your whole family can enjoy the process together. If you have any recommendations to add to the list, be sure to comment below!!
Tips for Reading with Kids
Join the Biracial Bookworms tribe and you will get our FREE printable Top 10 Tips for Reading with Babies, Toddlers, and Pre-Schoolers. You will learn the best strategies for parents and teachers to read to young kids. It's up to you to make reading fun and memorable and the love for books life long, but we're here to equip you to do it.