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, they get a lot 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 for singing with your child in a second language
Choose a simple song in a language that isn’t your child’s first language.
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 they don’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 their first language, like ‘Happy birthday’.
- Put plenty of expression into your voice and face as you sing.
- Praise your child when they sing the words or copy the actions with you. Your child might remember only 1-2 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.
Adapting this activity for children of different ages or children with diverse abilities
You can sing songs in different languages to your baby as soon as they’re born or even before. You don’t have to wait until your child starts to talk or until they’re fluent in one language. Children can learn 2 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 1-2 words or phrases, but if they like it enough they’ll keep listening until they understand more. You might want to check the lyrics to make sure the content is suitable.
All children learn and develop through play. Our articles on play and autistic children and play and children with disability are great starting points for adapting this activity guide for children with diverse abilities. You might also like to explore our activity guides for children with diverse abilities.