If you are one of those parents who are experiencing problems getting your child to like learning a 2nd language, you are not alone.It does not matter whether you are teaching your child to learn to swim, speak 4 languages (I have training my daughter to speak 4 languages eversince she was a little toddler), walk, skateboard, play golf or sing. It is always good to expose them to these activities when they are young. However, as children grow, they also form impressions and preferences to what they are learning. They are able to accept and reject knowledge as if they have maturity of thought to decide what is good for them.
The point is that it is not easy to get a child to like learning a skill or language as an academic subject. Everything they learn for the first 2 years of their lives have always been mixed with fun. No rules and no strings attached. They learn to walk, speak, eat, run and laugh when they are ready. There is no force, deadline, grading and expectation of any sort. They do what they like and still grow to become the little toddler that you always remember them to be. But rules of learning changes everything. The rules of learning stifle a child’s learning process which essentially is all about discovery and exploration.
Based on my personal experience as a parent / tutor of a multi-lingual kid, I can tell you 10 signs your child may be disinterested in learning a 2nd language.
Your child does not read a single storybook written in that language in any given week. When you child is still a toddler, he may still be flipping through the pages of a foreign language books, seemingly interested in the writings and pictures. It still doesn’t prove that he is interested in learning a new language. When he actually starts to learn to read, write and speak the language and have to flip through the pages with a consciousness to read, you will notice effort is needed to get to each new page. When it becomes a struggle to complete reading a page properly, fatigue and stress takes over. The process of not reading is gradual but the signs of disinterest are there. It is not because he is disinterested, it is the expectation that he has to be able to read properly that makes him disinterested.
Remedy: Lower your expectation in this case or he will drift even further away from a reading activity. 🙂
2. Failure to initiate greetings or respond to greetings in the language.
If you child does not greet his language teacher or respond to his language teacher for a few days, he may just be shy. However, if he has already been learning the subject for at least 3 months and still does not wish to utter a single greeting word in that language, he is telling you he is not interested in the class. As it is, they say that children do not shake hands or greet when they meet. This is true. They can be at a playground everyday and still do not know each other’s first name. Yet they seem to enjoy being together playing, shouting and chasing each other. Perhaps greetings are not necessary but they indicate whether your child is is interested in learning at all with the rest of his classmates. A language can be the playground, and words are the tools of the game. If the child is not using the tools to play a game of language learning, then he is not into learning a language.
Remedy: Start each day with your child with a greeting phrase “Hello”, “Good Morning” etc in the language he is learning. You may not speak the language yourself but you can at least learn to greet him in the language at home. 🙂
3. Hesitate or refuse to read aloud and independently. Your child picks up a book, flips through the pages like you expect him to and then he stares at the page blankly. Now let me tell you that in the case of reading Mandarin, it may mean that he does not recognise the characters and there is no chance of knowing how read a character you don’t know unless you refer to the Chinese dictionary. If the language is Arabic, then he may be struggling to make sense of the curves and breaks in between individual alphabets like في اسم means In the name of is made up of 5 alphabets, ف ى ا س م. In this case, you should give him more time to immerse into the habit of reading. Just do not let him fall into the non-readers category as described above. The sign of disinterest shows itself when the child has already read the page in class with his teacher but does not practise reading the same page independently and aloud on his own. He puts the book away and waits for the next session to begin again before he takes a look at it.
Remedy: Encourage your child to read the page his teacher has read in class by sitting down beside him. Do not leave him to his own devices and expect miracles to happen. It does him no good. If he is not motivated, he need to be with you sitting beside him. If he is struggling, he needs your support so he can at least try. Speak to the teacher to find out if there are other kids in the class who may be struggling with reading as well. Usually the teacher will give you an overview of the class performance.
4. Unable to name a classmate. Remember what we say about children are spontaneous when it comes to playing? They don’t need to greet one another and yet spend the entire time together playing. In a language class, names will be called by the teacher for certain activities like answering questions or show and tell. In the beginning, the teacher marks attendance. If your child feels isolated, he will not make any friends in the class.
Remedy: Ask your child if he has someone he likes to talk to or a child who always like to approach him. Ask your child to get his name. Approach the teacher about this so she can help your child feel more comfortable socialising.
5. Do not remember the teacher’s name. This is probably a clear sign that your child is totally disinterested in the subject. Not only does he not remember what the teacher is teaching, he is not able to recall the name of the teacher.
Remedy: It is strongly recommended that you speak to the teacher about this. Do not try to fix your child at home by yourself. It could be that he is not interested but he is attending the class because you want him to. If you try to fix your child’s problem by yourself, you run the risk of creating a rift between you and your child.
With so many signs, how can you tell if it is a matter of interest or attitude?
The most vital tell tale sign that your child is not interested is when he just simply does not wish to speak, read or listen to the language at any point in his learning journey. If the child is not disinterested now, he may still pick it up later in life. It is not a do or die situation. Language learning is a life long journey. If it is accepted as part of life, learning becomes a joy.