How traveling abroad to give your child the ultimate language experience.
Fluency in a language comes from practice. Getting kids to practice the language in dual language programs is not always enough for some children. For these and other reasons, many families opt to get language exposure by traveling abroad.
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Table of contents
- How traveling abroad to give your child the ultimate language experience.
- Why travel abroad
- Benefits of traveling abroad
- When to travel abroad
- How to choose a country
- Language exposure traveling abroad – Risks
Dual language immersion programs are known for the structured way they are able to immerse students in two languages. In addition to immersing students in language, these programs also aim to provide and teach participants the target language culture. Learning about the culture of a target language is an essential component and experience of the immersion experience.
We know that language development comes with challenges that as parents we must overcome. Sometimes our kids may not excited about using the target language. At the same time, others may have language skills and still hesitate to practice the language. It is often harder when the majority around don’t know the language.
Why travel abroad
If you are a parent that is passionate about making sure your child becomes bilingual in a second language, then you should consider immersing your child in language exposure by traveling abroad. I know this may sound extreme for some families but as we aim for bilingualism traveling abroad is the ultimate experience any language learner should have.
This is the ultimate experience of a language learner because it provides the cultural and linguistic experience that dual language immersion programs aim to provide. Language exposure traveling abroad provides a natural setting for kids to use and hear the language they learn in school. In addition to the language exposure that a child gets from traveling abroad, this is also a great way to bond with your child and share.
Benefits of traveling abroad
The benefits of traveling abroad are limitless. The experience provides a rich cultural and social interaction that most people enjoy. Kids are pretty much obligated to use the language, which allows for more practice, provides a cultural experience, and shows the importance of learning languages.
Provides a cultural experience
Remember that learning a language involves learning that language’s culture. A visit abroad provides a child with the cultural immersion that schools aim to give students in a classroom. This social interaction will allow your child to see what they have learned by connecting what they learn in the classroom.
In addition, this experience allows them to apply what they know about that language and culture. They might even feel excited about being able to share what they know with you and others. Exposure to another culture is always exciting because we’ll often find differences in foods, music, community, and educational settings.
Increase use of the target language
Teachers are constantly working on finding ways to get kids to engage in a target language in a learning environment. This is a challenge that many teachers face trying to get students to use the language they are learning. Still, many students refuse to use the language with each other because they might be embarrassed to speak or afraid to make mistakes.
When a child travels to another country, this gives a child the chance to use the language they know in natural social interaction. As they begin to use the basic language you will see that the more they use the language the more comfortable they become retrieving what they are learning. An experience abroad will also force one to speak to others.
Allows for more practice
Having to use the language to communicate basic information opens doors to additional practice. If staying at a hotel, he/she may be forced to communicate with staff members. The practice may also come from ordering from a menu or visiting museums or other touristic places.
There are different ways to get kids to practice a language. When traveling abroad, practicing a language may begin as soon as you arrive at the other country’s airport. The point is that because not everyone in another country speaks English, this allows your child to get more practice using the language. Most people abroad get excited about sharing their culture and using their native language with others.
Shows the importance of learning languages
At the beginning of this post, I mentioned how some kids hesitate to use and practice a language in the US. A language exposure traveling abroad will show your child the importance of being bilingual. They will see how learning another language opens doors to other cultures and experiences.
The importance of being bilingual is often discussed with students; however, seeing how one can communicate and engage with others using multiple languages is an eye-opener when we get to travel abroad. In some countries, your child might even see how younger kids are also learning and using multiple languages regularly.
When to travel abroad
Now you might be wondering – how do I know when to travel abroad? The timing of traveling abroad depends on everyone’s situation.
If you have family members that live abroad
There is no doubt that it is easier for immigrant families to travel abroad when they have families in their native countries. If you have families that live abroad, visiting friends or family members should become part of your yearly routine. Visiting your country should start as early as possible.
Frequent visits will help you build relationships and make connections. This will also show your child that learning a language facilitates relationships in different places. The more your child is exposed to that country, the more they will use and hear the language.
I am one of the fortunate moms that have family members abroad. As an immigrant in the USA, I have had the opportunity of traveling with my kids to my home country. Traveling my kids to visit family members has given them the ultimate cultural experience and connection. Additionally, our trips give them the chance to use the Spanish language because no one else there speaks another language.
One intentional thing I try to do is to switch to Spanish only when we are abroad. This shows them that they have to also switch to using the language and communicating with others. I also plan gatherings where I am not always with them so that they are forced to communicate with others around them.
Traveling abroad (no family members)
If you do not know anyone you can visit abroad, then you’ll want to decide when to begin traveling abroad to expose your child to the language. Traveling may begin as soon as you can afford it or one to two years after your child has been learning the language. When you decide to begin these travels, don’t forget that you might need a bilingual dictionary if you are not fluent in the target language. A paper dictionary will give you access to translation when you have no internet connection.
The key is to plan for a trip that will expose your child to the language. This may be a trip to a resort for the first time until you get comfortable in that country. If you do a resort, then allocate some time to do tours around the area. Talks to a travel agent or tour guide people to get an idea of how to safely access other parts of the country.
How to choose a country
Choosing a country to travel to might be a challenge depending on the language your child is learning. The country you choose must speak the language your child is learning. An international travel experience must be done with careful consideration of the country you are pursuing to visit.
Consider your previous exposure to other countries if you traveled abroad before. A country that is familiar to you is definitely easier to visit and navigate. Talk to friends and families in the USA that may have experience traveling to a particular country. If possible, partner with another family or friend. You may also want to consider reaching out to someone from that country who may refer you to a specific area.
Search online for information about that country. There are websites that compare countries life style for incoming visitors to countries such as Latin America.
Language exposure traveling abroad – Risks
As in every experience, some risks come with traveling abroad. Be cautious as you make decisions and be extra careful when in a country abroad. Many countries are safe within a resort, but things may differ when you come outside the resort. Take safety precautions such as carrying paper spray or a money pouch that will help you keep your money safe. See a list of items that may help keep your money discrete and safe.
Whatever you choose to do, just remember that language exposure while traveling abroad is about the experience. You may start with a short trip to make connections and learn about the country. Some may choose to visit multiple countries over time when the language you are targeting allows for that. Please get to know people and their culture. By just visiting a resort, you show your child the importance of learning languages and the surrounding cultures.
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