How do stories contribute to learning a foreign language?
Children have an incredible ability to learn skills and content of any kind, including unconsciously learning languages, which involves applying and understanding grammar rules and correctly imitating the pronunciation of the language they use. Reading is a key part of expanding knowledge of a language. For this reason, getting your son or daughter to start reading at an early age, is one way to ensure success in learning a foreign language.
Books, especially children’s stories, which usually contain many illustrations, allow children to easily understand the context of the story without having to search for vocabulary. This makes it fast for children to gain vocabulary, especially since the words used in a story are often repeated several times throughout the story, and stories that contain dialogue show language that is frequently used in everyday conversation. This vocabulary is key and seeing it in context is a huge benefit for learning a language.
How to Use Books to Learn a Foreign Language
It is an excellent strategy to use books to learn a foreign language, as the stories are entertaining and engaging for children and adults alike. Here are some tips to get the most out of this technique:
- Choose appropriate stories: Start by selecting short and simple children’s stories that are adapted to the level of language proficiency the child is learning. Search for stories with appropriate vocabulary and grammar for your level of knowledge.
- Listen, repeat and practice with the help of a native speaker or teacher, or with technological resources that read aloud. Pay attention to pronunciation and intonation. Then, repeat the story out loud, trying to imitate the way the words are pronounced. If possible, to get fuller exposure to the language, look for different versions of the same story in the foreign language. That way, you can hear different accents and styles of narration.
- Pay attention to visual material: This will help to better understand the context and to associate the words with their meanings.
- Translation and Key Vocabulary: After listening and repeating the story, check the translation to make sure you understood correctly.
- Questions and answers: Ask the child easy questions to practice vocabulary. This will allow you to apply vocabulary and grammatical structures in authentic contexts.
- Create your own story: An excellent way to practice the language is to create your own story. Use the vocabulary and grammar you have learned to tell a simple story. You can share your story with other students or with a teacher to receive feedback and corrections.
- Games and activities: Design games and activities based on the story to make learning more fun and effective. For example, you can create crossword puzzles, word search puzzles, or memory games with words from the story.
- Dramatization: If possible, organize a small theatrical performance of the story with the child and a family member or friend who is learning the same language. Interpreting the characters and dialogues will help you improve your comprehension and fluency.
Use Books to Learn a Foreign Language and Resources for Language Acquisition
You have to make sure that the children listen to the words in the book, either through an audiobook or through the parents if they know the pronunciation. If we work with them by telling them the story out loud and correcting mistakes in pronunciation, they will also practice the spoken language. All this ensures that children work on various language skills just through a story: their expression, their oral comprehension and their reading comprehension. If we combine books with games or classes in the foreign language and encourage our children to write their own stories, the child will quickly improve their level. Materlu has an audiobook version and, in addition, the stories are completely customizable, which provides an immersion that will motivate the little ones to understand everything they say, even in a foreign language.
You can get even more out of reading if you read through electronic books or with a Kindle, for example, since these devices have a function that allows us to highlight new words and automatically look them up in the dictionary, preventing the reader from getting distracted and offering a quick and easy way to consolidate new vocabulary.
We may also include videos, movies, and video games. First, we can read the book in the foreign language and then watch the film in the foreign language, once with subtitles and once without subtitles, to provide full reinforcement of the chosen language. The more we are exposed to the vocabulary learned in context, the more likely it will be retained in long-term memory.
Starting to read at an early age, whether in the native language or another, has many cognitive benefits and forms a good habit. Materlu defends that the use of books to learn a foreign language is a way of educational fun and a leisure activity that offers multiple advantages when it comes to internalizing the language. Children’s reading combined with extra contact with the language, are an effective and motivating way to expand children’s language acquisition skills.
He reminds us that the key to learning a foreign language is constant practice and regular exposure to the language. Children’s stories have multiple advantages and are a valuable tool to improve your listening comprehension, expand your vocabulary and gain confidence when communicating in the foreign language you are learning. Have fun while you learn!