The Best Way for Kids to Become Fluent in a Foreign Language

Do you want your child to be fluent in another language? Or do you want to become fluent with your child? Well, first it’s important to know what fluency is and what it isn’t and then to understand how we reach fluency.

Fluency for Listening and Speaking

When you’re fluent in a language, you hear something being said in that other language and you automatically understand what it means. The images come to your mind and you understand what was said. You don’t hear something in a foreign language, put it into English, and then the images and meaning come. That’s not fluency.

At TalkBox.Mom, we start with fluency. We want you to be able to understand, hear, and say things without having to translate them in your mind. You don’t have to think about what you’re saying— you just say it.

Fluency for Reading and Writing

Fluency also includes reading and writing but it’s the same concept as listening and speaking fluently. If your child attempts to read something in another language and they have to put it into English to be able to understand what it means, they’re not fluent. They have to be able to read it in the language and understand what’s being said.

Naturally, there might be one or two words on a page that they don’t know but they look those words up in a dictionary in the other language, with definitions in the other language. They’re not using English to understand what it means, that’s not fluency. Just like when your child writes, they don’t have to think in English and then put it into the foreign language— they can think and write in that foreign language with ease. That is fluency.

Getting to that point of fluency might seem difficult because most language programs don’t help children or adults become fluent. They focus on grammar and vocabulary when you start. That’s not starting with fluency. At TalkBox.Mom, we start with fluency the same exact day you begin. From there, we help you go far down the path of fluency. That is super, super important to us.

In my high school foreign language class, I did all the things I was supposed to do. I got all A’s, 100% in the class. And guess what? I was not fluent. I could barely talk with all the translating going on in my head! I don’t want that for you.

Natural Language Progression

To discover how to get past this and really become fluent, I’m going to take you back to when you were a baby (or when your child was a baby). Take a look at the natural language progression so you can understand how you learned your first language, which will help you become fluent in your next language.

  • When you were a baby, your parents or caregiver talked to you, sang to you, and read to you.
  • Next, you started talking— but of course your parents or caregiver didn’t stop talking, singing, or reading to you. You just added on this next layer. Maybe you also were singing.
  • A little further down the road, you started watching videos, movies, and TV shows.
  • After that, you started telling stories. It’s not common for a nine month old who’s saying their first words to tell a story; it’s something that comes after hearing other people tell stories, watching stories being told, hearing stories being read. Then you start telling stories.
  • Finally, you went to grammar school, where you started reading, writing, and grammar.

The problem is that most foreign language programs are starting right here at the end— reading, writing, and grammar but with no foundation to build on. By the time you learned to read in your first language, you could already speak that language. So when you sounded out a word like dog, you thought “d-o-g. Oh, dog.” The idea came to your mind because you knew what a dog was. That, my friend, is fluency. However, when you start with reading, writing, and grammar, you’re not starting with fluency because you have to translate everything.

How do we start with fluency at TalkBox.Mom?

We add on layers of fluency. Notice I said layers, not steps. That’s because you must first lay a foundation, then you can add the next layer to that foundation. You don’t stop doing the first part, it’s still really important.

1. Listening and Talking

The first foundational level is listening and talking. It’s first and most important because it’s the foundation for fluency. If you can’t already talk and understand the language, well, you won’t be fluent in your reading and writing, either. You’ll constantly have to translate everything.

Much of your time is spent laying this foundation. You want to spend about one to two years just at this listening and talking layer. At TalkBox.Mom, we help you use phrases that will transform your life into the new language to the point where they just fall out of your mouth. You’ll hear the phrases just like when you were a baby and then you’ll be able to mix and match sentences using those phrases, because your brain is brilliant.

If you aren’t sure how to go about teaching phrases, please understand it’s much more than listening and repeating with the audio. I have an article linked below that goes into great detail on how you use that time to teach phrases so that they really become part of your life.

Other things that you can do in this listening and talking stage are:

  • listen to books being read to you if you’re not a native speaker
  • listen to music
  • listen to radio programs
  • listen to and watch TV shows or movies. As you watch, you listen for the words that you’re already using. You pick them out and understand those things, then you learn other words based on the context.

2. Reading and Copywork

If you begin with the strong foundation of listening and talking, then by the time you get to the reading and copywork layer, you already understand what you’re reading. And you’ll understand what you’re writing for copywork. For example, if I gave my child a sentence to write and he didn’t understand anything being said in that sentence, it wouldn’t be worth his time. But if I gave him a sentence for copywork and he could already understand what it means, he’d already know how it should be written he’d already know what it is because he says it all the time.

At TalkBox.Mom, we have you use the things you learn to say as practice for reading and copywork.

  • As you practice reading, you have the opportunity to make your own cartoons, your own books, and other things with the phrases that you’ve been learning.
  • Next, you practice copywork, and you keep using those same phrases. You will learn so much.
  • Then, you practice dictation. That’s when you play the audio for a phrase and write it down. You can now hear something and write it down correctly.

Using TalkBox.Mom, you keep working on speaking the phrases that you’re reading and copying. Then when you write them, you hear them and write them easily and accurately. Even better, when you write, you can hear other things that you’ve never heard before, because you’re already really good in this area. Don’t worry if you get to the dictation stage and you hear something, but you can’t write it down very well, yet. You just go back to the previous layer and make sure that layer is good and strong before moving on.

3. Grammar

Grammar is so easy to understand if you can already talk and you have examples in your mind of things that you’ve already seen. So if you’ve been talking and listening, reading, doing copywork and dictation, you’ve already noticed these grammar principles naturally. Just like a native English speaker can hear if something is right, or can understand a grammar concept being explained, because they have the context needed to understand. They get better at English, and they’re not confused.

4. Free writing

This final layer is awesome because your kids understand enough of the language that they can hear, read, and write. As your family writes, you can actually hear it in your mind and write down exactly what you’re thinking— making free writing a breeze. So instead of starting with free writing, you’re ending with it and it’s much easier. Free writing wouldn’t be easy if you didn’t have all the foundational layers below it.

Fluency layers stack on top of each other. If they’re strong and solid, the next layer is easier. When you learn this way, you’re not translating in your head— you’re fluent!

That’s what we want for you. This is a step-by-step path to help you and your child become fluent in a foreign language.

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