How to successfully teach children a second language

Learning another language doesn’t come easy, for a grown adult that is, so imagine trying to instill it into a child with the attention span of Sid from Ice age.

Children learn differently than adults and grasp concepts when they enjoy what they are doing. Think about when you were young and the ways that you enjoyed learning, whether it be in the classroom or in your everyday life. For me, that would have been playing games, singing songs, making arts and crafts, and cooking. Once you figure out what it is that your “student” enjoys doing than it will be 100 times more effective for both you and them.

The number one thing that you have to remember is to be patient with them. Put yourself in their position and remember that you too were once a child and your mentality was not where it is today. Start slow and focus on the little things before jumping into more complicated subjects.

For example: Don’t expect the child to understand a sentence before reviewing individual words or the alphabet for that matter.


Kids like technology especially Computers, phones and tablets. Thankfully we have been blessed to have access to applications and software’s that provide aide in learning languages.

Duolinogo was the first application that I found when actually learning the French language myself and then was able to use it in reverse to teach English. It is a great tool in order to learn the basics of the language but may require more support from the teacher as it can become complicated as the levels increase. I find that the children enjoy the satisfication of completing a level giving them a desire to continue “playing the game”.

Pilo Pop is another application made especially for younger children who may not have the interest or attention span for Duolingo, for example. It challenges the learner to use the correct pronunciation when saying the words indicated in order to pass to the next level. For my host child the accomplishment factor is a huge asset, as I’m sure it is among many children.


In my own situation I know that as soon as I include any sort of song into our lesson, my “student” is 100% interested in what I’m attempting to teach her. She loves music so I know how important it is to make sure she is actually attentive to what I’m explaining.

Try and find songs that are both educational but also of interest to the child. A great way to start is with the alphabet and then nursery rhymes which are typically spoken slow and easy for the child to understand. During seasonal holidays I like to include traditional songs into our lessons but in English. I’m been very fortunate to have been supplied with my books that include CD’s pertaining to the activities as well as traditional children songs in English.


If you’re able to get your child away from an electronic game then bring out the old school board games and try and introduce vocabulary in English throughout the game. A great one that I have found is Guess Who or Qui Est-Ce. When playing this game, be sure to ask questions in English which are repeated helping the brain to memorize certain phrases and words pertaining to the game. Bingo is also a great choice when learning vocabulary and can be fun as well. The great thing about the world we live in today is that all of these resources are readily available online typically free of charge or are simple enough to create yourself.


Try and find bilingual books where you are able to read the same story in both your native language and theirs. Another good option would be to find activity books where the children are able to essentially have fun while doing activities throughout the story they are reading. Make sure the stories are not too difficult when beginning or the child may become frustrated and disinterested in what you are trying to accomplish.

From personal experience I’ve noticed that kids are uninterested in listening to a book where they aren’t able to understand frankly anything that is being told. Don’t be discouraged if the child has no interest in listening to you read them a picture book even if you may think that it’s simple. Grasping a language takes time and starting off with a story isn’t typically the most effective way to grab their interest in learning.

You can find the book I find most effective by clicking here. 


Try incorporating activities where the child is able to be involved in the creation of something where you can point out objects in English. For instance painting is a great activity where you can use the different colors as a way to incorporate vocabulary while having fun at the same time. If you aren’t already on Pinterest I suggest you create an account because you will be able to find endless, and I mean ENDLESS ideas and activities to do with just about anyone. Be aware though, it’s addicting!

So there you have the most successful methods I’ve been able to use in order to teach french to my host child. Being an au pair is one thing and having the responsibility to also teach a second language to someone can be a difficult taste. Be patient, be aware of how the child leans best and most of all have fun!

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The Mindful Maritimer

I'm a 23 year old travel addict, health coach and thriving foodie! Follow my journey of overcoming my eating disorder while traveling the world!

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