Babies acquire their native tongue without being formally taught grammar or vocabulary. They are born with a toolkit of sounds and as they develop, they maintain the sounds most repeated in the language they hear. This is why it’s important to speak in other languages even if you don’t feel super confident. Even though I only speak to River in Spanish and French about 25% of the time, she still hears sounds unique to those languages and my hope is that even small glimpses will help her learn Spanish and French more easily in the future! If I’ve learned anything during one year as a mom, it’s that babies are freaking smart!  

So can you teach your baby a foreign language, even if you don’t know one? If you are willing to do a bit of legwork, then yes! Here are a few ways to practice another language with your kiddo…

  1. Practice with laundry

Teach yourself some basic clothing vocab and you’re good to go! The next time you fold laundry, plop your baby next to you. She will have fun feeling the texture as you show her, “It’s a shirt” or “C’est une chemise” or simply, “chemise.”

  1. Go to a used book store or thrift store 

Go to the foreign language section and get some picture books. If there aren’t any, use a magazine or travel book and make up stories in the target language based on the pictures. Some picture books have English and the other language on the same page, but if it doesn’t, you can usually infer the meaning.

  1. At the grocery store

Make the most of your shopping trip by learning words for produce in the target language. Tell baby the name of each fruit or vegetable as you put it into your cart. If you forget a word, you can always pull out handy-dandy Google translate! 

  1. Learn a tongue twister or nursery rhyme

A nursery rhyme is a great choice for little ones while older kids might enjoy learning a tongue twister. A rhyme or song can be fun to incorporate into your baby’s bedtime routine so they can consistently practice the target language! Here are some fun foreign language tongue twisters to learn: 70 People Try 70 Tongue-Twisters From 70 Countries | Condé Nast Traveler – YouTube

  1. Do the dishes

You’ve gotta do it anyway, why not make a game out of it? Similar to laundry, you’ll need to learn words for kitchenware. “It’s a plate!” “Es un plato!” (See how easy!)

  1. Narrate what you’re doing

Once you gain more exposure to the target language, you can put basic sentences together while you tell your baby what you’re doing. “I’m eating!” “Jeg spiser.” If you’re unsure of the pronunciation, most translation websites or apps have a “listen” option! 

So there you have it! See how simple it is to enhance your babe’s lexicon? Whether you want to prepare your baby for their formal education or just share the love of another culture, introducing words and short phrases will go a long way!

4 responses to “How to Teach Your Baby a Second Language Even if You’re Monolingual”

  1. Carol Beevers Avatar
    Carol Beevers

    Great ideas, Summer!! What wonderful way to familiarize children with another language.


    1. Summer Zalesky Avatar
      Summer Zalesky

      Thank you!


  2. Frankie Avatar

    Gee, it make me wish I had a baby(no, not at this age 😆); such a wonderful suggestion!


    1. Summer Zalesky Avatar
      Summer Zalesky

      Haha! You can still teach yourself a new language!


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: