Disney’s new animation Encanto appears to have inspired a whole generation of language learners. Here, we discover the best ways for children to learn a second language from home.
Set in Columbia, Disney’s new film Encanto follows the story of Mirabel Madrigal and her magical family, where everyone has been blessed with a special power except her. The film has already been breaking records in Hollywood, ranked the highest-grossing animated film of 2021 and named Best Animated Movie at the Golden Globes 2022.
Google searches for “learn Spanish” increasing by 324% in the month following its release. Learning a second language from a young age has many surprising benefits – it’s fun, nurtures curiosity, promotes healthy development and boosts academic achievement.
We spoke to online language platform Preply to discover the best ways for children to learn a second language from home. Daniele Saccardi from Preply says: “Learning a second language from a young age has many cognitive benefits and is a really effective way to keep the mind sharp.
“It helps encourage skills in creativity, memorisation and listening and can be really beneficial for career advancements later in life.”
The Top Five Ways Children can Learn a Second Language
Research shows that bilingual children learn faster and have improved problem solving skills and creativity.
Reading is one of the best ways for children to be more exposed to the different sentences, grammar, and vocabulary of another language – helping them speak more fluently than those who don’t routinely read to learn.
Children’s books tend to be more visual with images supporting the text. This helps children understand the meaning behind the language by using images to represent the words.
Watching Cartoon Films or TV Shows
Watching cartoons for children is not only fun but also educational. They use easy-to-understand language and can help children learn more naturally. They are specifically created to teach children through music and pictures, which help children grasp a new language.
For example, watching a Disney film in Spanish is a great way to learn as the language used is simple, meaning children can put context into the images on screen.
Examples of cartoon TV shows that help children learn another language include Peppa Pig, Spongebob Squarepants, Paw Patrol, Dora The Explorer, Sesame Street, Go, Diego, Go! and lots more. These are all available on Netflix in up to five different languages.
Research suggests that the best time to introduce new languages to a child is between birth to 10 years old. Learning in this time frame helps them learn the language faster, retain it better and speak it with near-native pronunciation.
From a young age, children are spontaneously learning about the world around them through everyday activities and play. Playing games in another language can be a great way for children to memorise foreign words.
For example, playing hide and seek can help a child learn to count in another language or playing Simon says but repeating the commands in a foreign language can be really beneficial. Online interactive games can also help children learn colours, animals and shapes in other languages.
A previous study shows that listening to music aids memory in language learning and listening to music reactivates areas of the brain associated with memory, reasoning, speech, emotion and reward.
Listening to music is a great way to strengthen language skills as children naturally imitate the rhythm and musical structure of words before learning them. The rhythm of music and repetitive patterns helps with memorising words so listening to music in other languages is a great learning technique for children.
Children have been found to be more creative, independent, interested and engaged with their schoolwork when it’s done through mobile devices. Technology can be used as a way to increase a child’s motivation to actively partake in language learning, as well as teaching them digital skills along the way.
There are a range of online language learning programmes tailored to children that are highly interactive and engaging, teaching language skills through a range of fun activities that hold a child’s attention more than traditional classes.