A play-based approach to home language learning

Making language learning fun for your little one

Reading Time: 3 minutes


As Indian Australian parents, we strive to educate our children about their bicultural backgrounds so that they can appreciate the diversity that they grow up with and be confident in who they are.

When we became parents, my husband and I were also keen to do this with our little one.

Reading up on the topic, we learnt from research that the children aged 0-8 learn best through play. So we decided to use the play-based approach with our child to explore their bicultural heritage.

One of the ways to learn about our cultural backgrounds is by teaching our children our various home languages. Language has an instant connection to culture.

For some families, teaching the home languages comes very naturally. For others, this isn’t quite as easy, and in that case, this article will be a great start at easing your worries.

Here are the three tips to assist in making learning the home language exciting for children and these are tips that have personally worked for us with our little one:

Tip 1: Make it fun

As with any kind of learning, especially for our children, it is important to make it an enjoyable process. When learning is fun, children are keen and want to learn and this is something that we have noticed with our little one.

There are many ways to make home language learning fun and here are three ways to do that:

  • Children love music. Listen to nursery rhymes and songs in your home language to your children, and sing (or dance) along with your children. Scientists have shown that listening to songs and humming or singing along to songs help with language learning, memorisation as well as enrich our vocabulary. (Altissia, 2020).

We’ve noticed that when we are singing and dancing in our home language, our little one seems to pick up words quicker (e.g. indra dhanush, chand, tara), and definitely seems to retain it better.

  • Watch cartoons/child friendly movies in your home language with your children as this is an enjoyable way to immerse your child in the language.
  • Games are entertaining so play games like Bingo, I spy and Memory games in your home language with your children.
playing with child
Source: Canva

READ ALSO: Developing critical thinking skills in your kids

Tip 2: Make it a part of your daily life

Another important part of learning is that it needs to be consistent. We all know continued behaviour of any kind becomes a habit.

Here are some ways to make language learning a part of your daily life:

  • Have a dedicated time to have conversations with your child in your home language. You could start off by having 5-minute conversations and then progress from there.
  • Get grandparents involved as they are a great resource. Leave voice notes for grandparents or video call them and get them to have conversations with your children in the home language.
  • Use the home language yourself regularly.
Source: Canva

Tip 3: Immersion

Lastly, learning is more pleasant when it is done with others, and also when it is a part of your child’s environment. When your child hears their home language spoken around them, they will be more likely to want to use that language themselves as well as be intrinsically motivated to understand and learn the language.

Some ways to immerse your child in your home language:

  • If it’s possible, surround your child with extended family speaking the same language
  • Surround your child with friends speaking the same language

So these are some tips for parents to ensure that home language learning is exciting for their children. As we are on this journey ourselves, I can definitely say that it is a journey with funny moments, learning moments and moments of triumph. One of the funny moments is how our child mixes the languages learnt in a sentence, e.g “Mumma I want some paani.” The triumph occurs when our child uses the home language spontaneously and the learning moments enable us to make the journey smoother and more fun. So my advice to all you parents is: Enjoy the journey, make it fun, and watch the magic unfold.

READ ALSO: How to explain lockdowns to your kids

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Neha Jain
Neha is an educator and a mum based in Sydney. She writes on parenting and lifestyle.

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