How Kids’ Foreign Languages Learning Differs from Adults

Singing, playing, laughing. All things we as adults take for granted – especially when it comes to learning a foreign language! When prepping for an upcoming trip abroad, or, even harder, when studying up on cultural customs of a nation we need to visit for work, learning a foreign language can be a daunting task for us older folks. Not so for kids, however, who tend to learn organically through fun and play.

Singing, playing, laughing. All things we as adults take for granted – especially when it comes to learning a foreign language! When prepping for an upcoming trip abroad, or, even harder, when studying up on cultural customs of a nation we need to visit for work, learning a foreign language can be a daunting task for us older folks.

Not so for our little ones however.

Instead of memorization, foreign language learning is an organic process that incorporates kids’ real lives — their toys, the animals they love, the letters and numbers that shape the world around them. Children are seemingly able to absorb a second language naturally without all the arduous study an adult might have to undertake.

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Why Your Preschooler is a Foreign Language Learning Genius

As a four-year old, I remember my mom bundling my sister and me into our hand-me-down snowsuits and trudging over to our local library for a weekly French class for preschoolers. Once snowsuits were removed, we sat in a circle and played a “broken telephone” game, passing phrases around a circle to see if they could survive, ungarbled. We sang some French songs, including “Sur le Pont d’Avignon” and “Aloutte.” And when we learned colors, I remember being astounded when the teacher demonstrated that you could mix red and white paint to make pink – “rose”. How come we didn’t know about this in English? Such was my introduction to French, and I was hooked.

Fast forward to when French classes started in school in grade 4. I remember in one class learning the meaning of the word “pont” – – bridge  – – and having a flashback to those classes in the library, with a newfound understanding of the song On the Bridge in Avignon/Sur le Pont d’Avingon. Had my early exposure to French helped? Absolutely. And I can still sing those songs, word-for-word, today!

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The Magic of Mistakes Want to Accelerate Your Child’s Foreign Language Learning? Help Them Get Comfortable with Making Mistakes.

We all know that everyone makes mistakes and that it’s a critical part of the learning process. It’s often hard, however, for students to move beyond the fear of embarrassment, especially when schools and testing generally reward being right. And for tweens and teens wanting to impress peers, the risk from making a potentially embarrassing mistake feels even greater.

Image of a girl interacting with tutor in online foreign language lesson in Spanish.When I recently attended the “meet the teacher night” at my daughter’s high school, her Spanish teacher kicked things off by sharing a bit about his philosophy. “I want kids to make mistakes in my class,” he said. “If they aren’t making mistakes, that means they aren’t trying new things. That’s why in my class, I reward mistakes.”

I wanted to hug him. Getting students to feel comfortable making mistakes in front of others can be a real challenge. And my daughter’s teacher was on to something – making mistakes is absolutely critical for foreign language learning.

We all know that everyone makes mistakes and that it’s a critical part of the learning process. It’s often hard, however, for students (especially older ones) to move beyond the fear of embarrassment, especially when schools and testing generally reward being right. And for tweens and teens wanting to impress peers, the risk from making a potentially embarrassing mistake feels even greater.

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PandaTree Transforms Foreign Language Learning with Launch of Proprietary Interactive Technology Platform Built Just for Kids $2 million in seed funding raised to date

 

Palo Alto, CA– November 2, 2017PandaTree Inc., the language learning company, announces the launch of its proprietary interactive foreign language learning platform for kids. The new platform allows students to talk via live video with their PandaTree tutor, while interacting with PandaTree’s proprietary, standards-based language curriculum. The company also announces it has raised an additional $1.5 million in a seed equity round.

The new WebRTC-based platform supports a more interactive and fully integrated curriculum. During lessons students can be doing a virtual 3D tour of a Mayan ruin or the Great Wall of China with their tutor, working on a project, or playing a game. “The new platform boosts learning because students are engaged. We view these innovations as just the start of a much more immersive virtual foreign language learning experience,” says Rich Matsuura, PandaTree co-founder and product lead.

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Is Spanish a Difficult Language to Learn? Part Two False cognates, verb conjugations and other challenges

By Dimaris Barrios-Beltran, PhD and Kristina Klausen, MBA

Image of smiling girl

Have you ever tried to “speak Spanish” by putting a bunch of O’s on the end of English words? If so, you might have noticed this strategy doesn’t take you too far. While there are similarities between English and Spanish, there are also some significant differences that can cause confusion for students at first. Understanding a bit about how Spanish works will help you support your child when it comes to common pitfalls and challenges in learning this language.

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Is Spanish a Difficult Language to Learn? Part One Features that make Spanish easier than you might think

By Dimaris Barrios-Beltran, PhD and Kristina Klausen, MBA

How hard is it for kids to learn a particular foreign language? That is often one of the first questions many parents ask when considering foreign language education for their children. Because Spanish is similar to English in several ways, and because many aspects of Spanish and Latin American culture are familiar to students in the United States, Spanish is considered one of the easier foreign languages for children to learn. In this post we’ll look at some of the features that make Spanish easier for kids to learn, and in part two we’ll look at some of the challenges that Spanish learners face.  Continue readingIs Spanish a Difficult Language to Learn? Part One Features that make Spanish easier than you might think

How to Support Your Immersion Student

Happy young boy working on foreign language homework

Learning a new language is both exciting and challenging, and the younger your child starts a second language, the more easily she will learn to speak it. Immersion programs for children, particularly Spanish and Mandarin, have been growing very rapidly and are often over-subscribed. If your child is lucky enough to be learning a foreign language in an immersion program, you may feel unsure how to support her–especially if you don’t speak the language yourself. Don’t worry. There are ways to help your child on the language-learning journey.

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How Hard is It for Kids to Learn Chinese? Part Two What makes Mandarin challenging: characters, tones, idioms and more

By Kristina Klausen, MBA and Mingyu Sun, Ph.D.

An image of a young Chinese student writing in a notebook.

In Part One of this series we looked at some surprising ways that Mandarin Chinese is easier to learn than other languages. Children learning Mandarin are happy to discover that Mandarin has no verb conjugations and no irregular spelling or grammar. That said, Mandarin has a reputation for being a challenging language – so for parents who are interested in having their children learn Mandarin we’ll take a look at the challenges and how they can be addressed.

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How Hard is it for Kids to Learn Chinese? Part One Surprising Ways Mandarin is Easier to Learn Than English

By Kristina Klausen, MBA and Mingyu Sun, Ph.D.

Image of Children Learning Mandarin

Chinese has a reputation of being a tough language to learn, but have you ever wondered why that is? Nearly a billion people in the world speak Mandarin Chinese – so clearly learning it is possible. However, if you’re a parent thinking about having your children learn Mandarin as a second language, you probably want to know more about whether Mandarin Chinese is a hard language for kids to learn. 

What might surprise you is that, in some ways, Mandarin is easier to learn than English. In this article we’ll take a linguistic perspective and look at what makes Mandarin easier to learn than you might think and, in Part Two we’ll look at what makes Mandarin challenging.

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An Interview with Stella Su, Founder of Great Chinese Reads

Stella Su and Mason Pan (right) of Great Chinese Books discuss how to present the recommended reading list in an online searchable database with Rich Matsuura (left) of PandaTree.com.
Stella Su and Mason Pan (right) of Great Chinese Books discuss how to present the recommended reading list in an online searchable database with Rich Matsuura (left) of PandaTree.com.

We often get asked by parents for recommendations about Chinese books for kids to read, so we’re thrilled to support the launch of Great Chinese Reads’ Recommended Chinese Reading List. Experts at Great Chinese Reads reviewed more than 2,000 books and selected 50 for inclusion in a leveled, searchable database available for free to parents, educators and students. PandaTree was delighted to work with Great Chinese Reads to bring their list to life online. Here’s a discussion with Great Chinese Reads Founder, Stella Su.

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