Building and reinforcing a strong vocabulary is difficult, no matter your age. For kids that are working on their native language or trying to learn a second one, such as Chinese, practice becomes even more crucial. Getting children to increase the variety in their language might take some convincing, especially since improving their lexicon involves a lot of hard work. Using these techniques, your child will be broadening their vocabulary without even knowing!
For many language learners, practicing vocabulary is filled with tedious repetition and memorization; that makes it harder to convince children to devote extra time to improving their skills. While reading is essential to pick up any new tongue, doing so silently doesn’t provide the same kind of experience that students need. Having children read out loud is a much better way of helping them practice all aspects of the language.
This method is invaluable for shaping a learner’s conception of the language as a whole. If your child is attempting to learn Chinese, start with an audiobook of your child’s favorite story so that they can follow along at first. This way, they’ll be re-reading a book they love, reinforcing the lessons even further!
Writing is another great way for people to polish up their language skills and practice a more advanced vocabulary. However, many young people first learning Chinese or another language often aren’t in the position to pen an evocative short story. Even so, studies indicate that storytelling is an excellent way to help reinforce a growing vocabulary. Some topics you may want to have them talk about include:
- A new adventure with their favorite characters
- Dream vacations and what they would be like
- A favorite day they’ve had
- Fun advertisements for outlandish products
- A familiar story with new characters
- A daily journal
Children tend to enjoy either making up new tales or recounting their day’s events. Telling stories pushes learners to find specific words that describe the tales they’re creating. By helping them write down new adventures and retelling old tales, they’ll need to dig deep into their memory to find the suitable descriptive words.
Motivating kids can be difficult, especially if it involves continuous repetition. Telling stories is a great way to get them to practice, but older children may find writing to be more beneficial. Taking pen to paper, while feeling antiquated in today’s digital world, does a lot to improve vocabulary and language skills. To get them interested in the process, find someone that they’ll enjoy writing to!
Whether it’s a friend, family member, or pen pal, having someone to communicate with encourages children to express themselves. Getting a letter in the mail builds immediate excitement, and kids can practice their reading skills as they review the letter. If someone is learning Chinese, for example, they can practice writing characters while their long-distance confidant refines their English alphabet!
The only way to keep a language alive is to use it. When the last two speakers of the Mexican dialect Ayapaneco stopped talking to one another, it served as a death knell for a language that has been spoken in North America for centuries. Language serves as a cornerstone to many people’s cultural identity, and practicing it helps them feel connected to and supportive of their native homeland. For many families, it’s an essential aspect of life that shouldn’t be forgotten. Some of the more recently extinct languages include:
- Wichita (United States)
- Sabüm (Malaysia)
- Damushbo (Brazil)
- Linvonian (Latvia)
- Gugu Thaypan (Australia)
Teaching children the importance of their heritage is a great way to empower them to practice and improve their vocabulary. If they feel partly responsible for keeping a tradition going, they may be more inclined to speak the language frequently. This is an especially effective tactic for multi-generational homes where maintaining cultural heritage can be shared between children and their native-speaking grandparents.
Living the Language
The most important part of learning a second language is practice. The methods to help empower children to use those skills all involve using repetition through enjoyable activities. Writing letters and telling stories encourages more creativity in word choice, while reading aloud lets kids find new words and practice pronunciation. Once children are engaged with learning a second language like Chinese, they’ll be motivated to find inventive ways to use their newfound vocabulary every day!