When you’re getting ready for an exciting trip abroad, you’ve got a lot of things to prepare and organize. The packing, planning, and organizing are probably on the top of your priorities list, but there are those little things you feel like you need to take care of. As a parent, you want your child to have the time of their life on this fun upcoming trip. However, you’re not sure how they’ll handle the language barrier.
When you kids find themselves in a surrounding that’s completely different from their home environment, they might be confused and held back. However, the language barrier is far from an issue with just a little bit of preparation.
If you’re curious to learn how to help your child overcome a language barrier on a trip, just keep reading.
1. Explain Languages
Depending on how small your children are, they might not have an idea about languages, and what they actually are.
This is the reason why they might get confused, or even scared when traveling to a foreign country and not being able to understand anything.
Therefore, as a form of preparation, you should try and explain to your kids what languages are and how people use them to communicate.
The best way to do this is with a practical example:
- find a friend or a family member who is bilingual
- have them talk to your kid in both languages
- teach them how to say something simple, like “dog”, in multiple languages
This will help them process the notion of a language and make this whole thing less confusing.
This preparation will be excellent for when you’re abroad and start hearing all the unknown words.
2. Familiarize Them With the Language
The next step in helping your kid overcome the language barrier is to find a way of familiarizing them with the language they’re about to be exposed to.
Here’s how I handled it last summer:
- I was getting ready for a trip to Italy with my family
- I wanted to help my 4-year-old son overcome the language barrier and feel a bit more comfortable around Italian.
- I went to YouTube and find an Italian version of his favorite cartoon, Peppa Pig.
- I played those episodes he’d already seen in English, only this time Peppa was speaking Italian.
This was super-fun for him because he knew what the episode is about, even though he didn’t understand Italian.
He even managed to memorize a couple of simple Italian word.
You can try something similar with your child:
- find cartoons in the target language
- play some music in the target language
- make sure your child is exposed to it before you hit the road
This strategy is super-helpful and takes care of the children’s sense of unfamiliar.
3. Learn Basic Phrases
When we speak about teaching your child a second language, you might feel like it’s a bit too much for them to handle.
However, language development in children is slightly different than in adults, and they are in a better position.
Children from the ages of 0 to around 5 or 6 have the ability to acquire languages. This implies they simply adopt the language without specific guided training, just by being exposed to it.
In other words, you don’t have to worry about stressing out your child with foreign words.
Therefore, you can teach them how to say some of the simple words, or phrases in the language you’ll be using on your trip:
These are great phrases to start with and see where that takes you.
4. Practice Together
Now that your child is familiar with the language and maybe even knows some simple words or phrases, you can all practice the new language together.
For my trip to Italy, my husband and I were repeating phrases we knew in Italian all day long for almost two weeks before the trip.
Naturally, my son joined the game and started babbling along.
He couldn’t wait for us to get to Italy so he could show off his Italian skills.
You could try out and do the same in your house:
- get the whole family to join in
- communicate in the foreign language
- encourage your child to join the fun
- don’t push them too hard
- wait for them to express the desire of joining the game
This will remove all the pressure around the unknown language and make your child feel safe and pleasant around it.
Who knows, maybe you’ll evoke some serious interest in foreign languages with your child.
5. Find a Translation App
Completely mastering a foreign language for an upcoming trip is impossible and unnecessary.
All of the above-enlisted advice will help your child overcome the language barrier and feel relaxed in the foreign country you’re about to visit.
However, you can turn it up a notch and walk that extra mile to ensure your child, as well as the rest of the family, is able to communicate during the upcoming trip.
You could download and learn how to use a translation app.
Luckily for you, kids these days are perfectly familiar with the usage of technology and it won’t be a problem for them to master the new app and join you in learning with it.
A translation app such as Google Translate can help your child, and the rest of the family:
- quickly translate any thought to a foreign language you choose
- feel comfortable in the foreign country
- not worry about communication issues
Of course, you’ll be in charge of typing in the words in English, but you can still use it together and have fun while doing so.
Your child might be shocked to discover a new language abroad if you don’t prepare them for it in advance. Therefore, it’s best that you start working on removing the language barrier before you set out and travel abroad.
Make sure you read all our advice above and slowly help your child to create a different mindset about languages in general and the specific language you’ll be hearing on your trip. This will completely remove the language barrier they might be experiencing.
Daniela McVicker is a psychologist and family counselor. She is also a freelance writer and a contributor to TopWritersReview. Her passion is writing about leading a healthy family life and helping people enjoy their lives to the fullest.