Learning a New Language

summer learning new language international school san antonio foreign language

Why not help your child get excited about learning a new language this summer? Truly acquiring a second language takes thousands of hours. That is too much to ask of one short summer. But you can help your child get motivated to learn a new language. This motivation will keep them going long after they’ve finished with Spanish 2.

For more ideas about summer experiences you can do while learning at home with your kids, visit the main page, Charter a Summer of Learning.

Learn a New Language to Appreciate Culture

I teach Chinese at International School of San Antonio, where we offer Chinese and French immersion programs. I often meet new students who watch a few Taiwanese dramas on Netflix and then get interested in learning the language. Children and adults who are interested in something from another culture often have the motivation to keep up with the marathon that is language learning.

Taiwanese dramas are great (and check out the Language Learning with Netflix browser extension for yourself after the kids have gone to bed), but I am assuming that today’s readers prefer activities that are screen-free for summer 2020. That’s a tall order, but I am going to try and fill it!

girl picking a flower learning a new language summer

Reading and Cooking with Preschoolers and Kindergartners

Books (in English) are a great window to the world. Read your child the story The Ugly Vegetables by Grace Lin, about a Chinese-American family. The book has a recipe for the soup from the story, which uses vegetables common in China. If making a soup in San Antonio in July is not your idea of a fun summer activity, plant a garden with some vegetables from the book instead. I recommend starting with water spinach (空心菜) or tricolor amaranth (苋菜). The seeds are easily available online.

Sister City Scavenger Hunt for Grade Schoolers

This summer, the world may not be your oyster, but the world has already come to San Antonio. Go out and do a scavenger hunt for the international connections we have in San Antonio. There is an authentic Japanese garden at the San Antonio Botanical Garden, a gift from our sister city of Kumamoto. The San Antonio River Walk is also a great place to search for our links to other countries. See if you and your grade schooler can find a gift from Mexico, some Chinese characters, and a gift from our sister city of Wuxi along the Riverwalk.

Cooking in a New Language for Teenagers

Ooof, this is hard. Your teenager probably doesn’t want to read books and garden with you or go hunting for sculptures from a far-off land. In my teaching practice, I have found that teens do more when I ask for more. Is your child taking French? Ask them to make a French meal for the family. There are plenty of simple recipes available in easy French on YouTube—okay, I knew we wouldn’t get through this without some screens.

A video like this should be comprehensible to a student with a year of French under their belt. Even the most novice cook can crack a few eggs and make an omelet. With some poking around a few cooking videos, a reluctant teen could be inspired to keep up with their high school language and also help out the family.

More Resources for Learning a New Language

For more ideas on how to inspire language learning in your child through cultural encounters, check out these links:

The San Antonio Museum of Art has several activities that increase global awareness and use materials that can be found at home. (Scroll to the kids’ section.)

The McNay Art Museum also has activities which connect kids to places such as France, Japan, and China.

If your child is ready to jump into language learning, Fun 4 Alamo Kids has a list of schools in San Antonio which offer language classes.

For those interested in language immersion, this article explains why this approach works.

Charter Moms Chats

Watch Inga Cotton’s interview with Mary Field on Charter Moms Chats.

For more ideas about summer experiences you can do while learning at home with your kids, visit the main page, Charter a Summer of Learning.

About the Author

Mary Field is the head of academics at the International School of San Antonio. She has taught Mandarin Chinese in San Antonio since 2015. She is currently learning Spanish with the help of her husband (a little) and Netflix (a lot).