Singing in a second language: why it’s good for children

Singing is a fun way to help your child learn and remember words and sentence structure in a second language.

When your child sings songs with repeated words or choruses, he gets lots of practice with new words and sentence structures. This helps your child remember these new words.

Songs with a cultural or personal significance – for example, songs passed down in your family – can have extra meaning for your child.

What you need to sing with your child in a second language

Choose a simple song in your second language to sing with your child.

If you don’t know any good songs, you could look for CDs and DVDs at your public library, or search online.

How to sing with your child in a second language

Here are some ideas to get you singing with your child:

  • Choose songs with hand movements, or make up some movements. Hand movements help your child remember what the song means, even if she doesn’t understand all the words.
  • Sing the song to your child. Don’t worry about what you sound like. Your child will love the sound of your voice, even if you’re off-key.
  • Choose songs your child already knows in his first language, like ‘Happy birthday’.
  • Put lots of expression into your voice and face as you sing.
  • Praise your child when she sings the words or copies the actions with you. Your child might remember only one or two words to begin with.
  • Explain what the song is about. You don’t have to translate every word.
  • Try to use some of the words and phrases from songs in everyday conversation with your child. It can be fun to sing parts of the song if you can fit them into what you’re saying.

Singing in a second language: adapting for children of different ages

You can sing songs in different languages to your baby as soon as he’s born or even before. You don’t have to wait until he starts to talk or until he’s fluent in one language. Children can learn two or more languages at the same time.

A catchy pop song can be a good way for your older child to learn a language. Your child might recognise only one or two words or phrases, but if she likes it enough she’ll keep listening until she understands more. You might want to check the lyrics to make sure the content is suitable.