Video: How We Use TV to Teach a Second Language


Language Learning DVDs for kids are just fantastic these days! Many of them teach children basic expressions and concepts in fun and engaging ways!  However, it can be difficult to get your older child to watch one of these language learning DVDs more than one or two times – especially  if your child desperately wants to watch a Disney flick or a popular Nickelodeon TV show.

How can you turn Disney or Dora into a second language opportunity? Show them the movie in that second language! 

It sounds easy right? Just pop in a DVD that has a language track in your chosen second language and off you go! Your kid will be spouting off Chinese or Spanish by the time the credits roll at the end of the show. Not so. It may take a while for your child to “get it” — meaning get the idea that the show that they used to watch in your native language is now being dubbed in a different language. The Language Playground™ has developed a method for introducing content and language in a way that solidifies meaning behind the images that they see on the screen.

Don’t get us wrong – you don’t have to do this for every TV program that your kiddo watches in a second language — that can be exhausting! Just pick and choose the parts of this process that work for you and your family.

Here is our process: 

1. Reading in your native language: Read a book in your native language that is based on the film that you are about to show your children

2. Watching in your native language: Have your children watch the show in your native language

3. Reading in a Second Language: Have your children listen to the book being told in a second language

4. Watching in the Second Language: Have your child watch the show in your second language choice with the book on his lap so that he can follow along. Only allow your children to watch the movie in your second language choice going forward.

5. Testing: A great way to test your child’s knowledge of the program is to put on the subtitles (if you don’t speak the language yourself) and see if he knows what is being said in the film.

  • If your child can’t yet read: put on the subtitles and ask him to tell you what is said in each scene. You can pause it screen by screen to see if your child understood the dialogue. Don’t do this for the whole film as your child will get frustrated and won’t want to “play this game” but if you do it sporadically throughout the show, it can be fun for both of you!
  • If your child can read: put on the subtitles and make a little card that enables you to block out the words at the bottom of the screen. Position yourself next to the TV so that you can see the subtitles but your child cannot. Again, don’t do this for the whole film, but if you do it sporadically throughout the show, your child may enjoy this challenge!

How do I get movies that are dubbed in my second language choice? 

It is getting much easier to get DVDs in many languages. Many popular movies and TV shows are now offered in multiple languages — even recently released DVDs.

FOR CHINESE LEARNERS: Finding popular shows in Mandarin can be a bit more challenging than French or Spanish, but we found a fantastic website where we buy all of our DVDs! Check out for a HUGE selection of popular American and Chinese animated DVDs, books, workbooks and games! Check out additional DVD recommendations by clicking on the Chinese flag below. Aside from the DVDs sold on asianparent, most Mandarin DVDs that you purchase will need to be played on a region-free player. They are cheap! Invest in one today! See below for our recommendations.

FOR SPANISH LEARNERS: Spanish tracks are already built into many popular DVDs (especially the collectors’ editions). Click on the Spanish flag for our recommended list of Spanish DVDs for children.

FOR FRENCH LEARNERS: French tracks are already built into many popular DVDs (especially the collectors’ editions). Click on the French flag for our recommended list of French DVDs for children.

FOR ESL or EMERGING ENGLISH READERS:  Click on the English flag for our recommended list of English DVDs for children.

This post contains affiliate links.



Filed Under: Posts with Videos, TV as a Tool

How to Find a Helper Who Speaks a Second Language?


You need a little extra help during the day or you are looking for a babysitter to watch your kiddos at night — why not hire someone who speaks your second language choice? A helper who speaks a second language helps not only mom and dad get some time to run errands, but also can act as a language tutor for your child!


How can you find a helper who speaks your second language choice?

  • Post an ad online:Craigslist is a wonderful, free resource to help you find someone who speaks your second language choice. Make sure that you are very specific in the title of your request. For example, “Seeking Mandarin-speaking Babysitter for my two children”. Post it under gigs/ domestic or under jobs/education. 
  • Spare room: If you have a spare room and are open to this idea, offer housing in exchange for babysitting help. Again, you can post this request in under housing/shared and be very specific about what you are looking for in the title of your post. 
  • Au Pair Agency: Go through an Au Pair Agency and get connected to an energetic and enthusiastic person who speaks your second language choice. So many young people would love the opportunity to work abroad and if you have a little extra space in your house, you can get help at a fraction of the price you would pay normally. If things don’t work out with your new helper, most agencies will let you interview and find someone new. 
  • Popular Spots: Create a little flyer with tags with your phone number/email address and post it at places where people who speak that second language tend to frequent. For example, if you are looking for a Mandarin helper, go to a Chinese grocery store and post your flyer there. 
  • Churches: Go to a church that caters to people who speak the second language that interests you and ask them if you can put up a flyer on their community boards. You can search online at churches in your area to see if they offer a service in that second language. For example, maybe a church near you offers a 10 am service in Spanish. That would be a great spot for you to post a request for a Spanish helper. 

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  • In Person: While it can be a little bit daunting, go to a place where you know people who speak that language will be and hand out little flyers about your offering. Attend a church service in that second language and hand out your flyer to everyone leaving the church. Hand out flyers one morning outside of a busy grocery store that caters to people who speak your second language choice on a Sunday morning. Stop by a shop where a lot of the employees who work there speak that second language and give a few of the people who work there a bundle of flyers to hand out to their friends. 
  • Colleges: Many colleges have offices that are devoted to students from foreign countries. Go to those offices and ask if you can put up a flyer as well as post on their electronic job boards for your babysitter position. A lot of students might also be looking for room shares and so if you have a spare room, approaching a nearby college might be a great idea for you to find a wonderful candidate. 
  • Online Groups: Join some yahoo groups with a focus in your language of choice and post your question about finding a helper there. One of the parents in that group might be enrolling her child in kindergarten the following year and will no longer need her helper.
  • Nanny Agency: Many nanny agencies specialize in hiring people just from specific countries. Check out or do a google search for agencies near you. 


Filed Under: Babysitter Help, Cultural Experiences

Video: Bilingual Preschool


Send your child to an immersion school!

Immersion schools, which can start as early as preschool, are a wonderful way to give your child a head start on learning a second (or third) language. Children learn all the same subject matter taught in standard schools, but in a second language!


  • This website is a great place to start your search and get reviews from parents like you! Just type in what you are looking for (i.e. Mandarin preschool) in the search bar and see what kind of schools are available. 
  • This website is a wonderful site to search for home school programs in your area. We were surprised at just how many smaller programs were not advertised on yelp or found on the web, but were on craigslist! Many of these programs are less expensive as well since they are run out of people’s homes. 
  • Yahoo Groups: Join some yahoo groups with a focus in your language of choice and post your question about recommended schools there. There are tons of happy parents just waiting to speak about their immersion school choices. 
  • Recommended Websites: Check out our list of recommended websites for links to websites that will help you find a school in your area. 


While living in Japan, we realized how easy it is for children to pick up a foreign language if they are immersed in it. While Lucas was only three when we left Japan, we knew that he loved speaking Japanese in school. To continue building upon this interest, we enrolled him in Chinese and Spanish preschools when we returned to the US. Since language acquisition is easiest at an early age, our children have jumped right into fully-immersive half-day Spanish and Chinese preschools. The entire class is conducted in that language and the children love it! At two, Lousha joined Lucas in Chinese school. At three, she started Spanish. After a year, we decided to focus solely on Chinese and so we no longer attend the Spanish schools. 

Why not send my children to a “regular preschool”?

We felt that they would learn the English basics (alphabet, numbers, etc.) from us and their daily environment, and we wanted to give them a head start in acquiring foreign language skills. Children are little sponges and we know that now is the time for them to learn a new language. My kids still get all of the same elements that they would get at a “regular preschool” – social interaction, understanding of the rules, and snacktime :), only now they are soaking in another language at the same time! 

They are not in school very much — just two days a week – but their level of understanding grows tremendously with each hour! It is just enough for them to enjoy it and yet not be overwhelmed.   


Check out the following video of Lousha at her bilingual Montessori School, Growing Tree in Saratoga, CA. We adore this school, their methods, their materials and their dedicated teachers. 



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Filed Under: Classes, Flashcard Fun, Games to Learn a Second Language, Posts with Videos, School for Immersion

Sleep on It: Music to Help Teach a Second Language


Why not teach your child a second language while they sleep? As part of your nighttime routine, put on Chinese, Spanish, French, (you name it) music and the beautiful words of these languages will lull your children to sleep while they soak up the language in their dreams. 

You don’t need anything fancy — just an old player that you find at a garage sale will do! You can involve your child in the decision making process by getting 3-4 CDs so that he can pick which one he wants to listen to before bedtime. You may find that your child enjoys the music so much that he puts it on himself while he plays in his room! 

What a simple, easy and fun way to get language into your child’s life! 

I downloaded a whole bunch of tracks and put them on my kids’ ipods to play each night. The music lasts for about a hour and a half and I love the fact that their little brains get to engage with Mandarin Chinese words in their sleep. Often, before Jim and I go to bed at night, I will just press “play” one more time so that my children can get a second dose of language immersion while they count sheep!

Frequently Asked Questions: 

1. My kid does not like to listen to music when he goes to bed — what can I do? 

  • Option 1: You can be sneaky — like me! My son used to listen to the music when he went to sleep, but then the player broke and we did not have music for awhile when he went to sleep. As a result, he decided when we got a new player that he did not want to listen to the Chinese music at bedtime any longer. Now, I wait for him to fall asleep and then I put it on when we are about to go to bed ourselves. So far, he has not figured it out! 🙂 
  • Option 2. Let him pick out the music that he listens to at night. Perhaps he would prefer something funny or something calming. Amazon allows you to listen to music before you buy so check out a few of the tracks with your kids and get “buy in” from your little ones before you “buy”! 

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Filed Under: Cultural Experiences, Music to Learn a Second Language

Video: A Twist on I Spy to Teach Vocabulary


A Twist on Ispy to Build Vocabulary

I Spy is a great game that interests children and encourages them to dig into their vocabulary vault to find words to play the game. My helper, Rebecca and my son, Lucas, play a twist on the traditional game of I Spy to encourage vocabulary exploration in Mandarin. You can play the same game in your second language of choice and watch your child relish in using the words he has learned so far.

The Game:

I spy is a great game to encourage vocabulary building in a second language while children have fun at the same time. With my younger daughter, my helper plays the traditional game of “i spy” with books to teach her words and have her gain confidence in using the vocabulary that she already knows in Mandarin Chinese (i.e. I spy a cat). However, for my son, we add a twist to the game as an additional challenge.

For him, I spy is a descriptive game where he needs to describe the item that he spies in a book in Mandarin Chinese until my helper figures out which object it is that he has in mind. If he does not know a vocabulary word in Mandarin Chinese for something that he wants to describe, he needs to find other words that he does know to get his explanation complete. Then, my helper takes a turn detailing the object that she spies on the page in Mandarin Chinese. They continue to play until it is time to go to bed! 


Filed Under: Babysitter Help, Games to Learn a Second Language, Posts with Videos, Product Reviews

Video: Teaching Chinese Characters Through Fingerpaint


How do you introduce your child to Chinese characters?

For a child used to English letters (the Latin alphabet consisting of 26 letters), the concept of Chinese characters can be hard to grasp. While some Chinese characters are drawn in a way that is similar to the meaning, many characters you simply have to memorize. How do you teach a four year old these characters in a fun way? Sure, I could have her write out the characters over and over again, but I want her to love learning Chinese and have a good first experience with Chinese characters. Check out the video below to watch my daughter’s first lesson with Chinese characters.

Step by step, this is how we kicked off her Chinese character education: 

Step 1: English

First, I showed my daughter how to trace the words for dog, cow and bird in English. We went over the colors first and then she watched me write the words on a piece of paper using finger paint. I painted one letter at a time and went over the sound that each letter made. Then, she traced over my letters with her own finger to reinforce the notion that letters make sounds and come together to make words.

Step 2: Chinese

After the lesson in English, our helper taught my daughter how to make the same words (dog, cow and bird) in Chinese using simplified characters. One stroke at a time, my helper, Rebecca, showed my daughter the correct stroke order for each word. My daughter traced each stroke after my helper drew it until the character was complete.

Products To Help Do This Lesson at Home: 



My daughter loved playing with the fingerpaint and learned about writing words in both English and Chinese. The following video captures an unrehearsed and unscripted conversation in Mandarin between my child and our helper, Rebecca.



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Filed Under: Babysitter Help, Games to Learn a Second Language, Uncategorized

Article: Bilingual Brain's Auditory System is More Efficient


A study published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS) found major differences in how the bilingual brain processes the sounds of speech compared with the brains of those who speak a single language. A bilingual person is better at picking out a spoken syllable, even when it is hidden within a variety of voices. For the first time,  researchers at Northwestern University have documented this kind of distinction between the adolescent bilingual brain and the monolingual one. 

Here is a link to the free abstract on the PNAS website for more information – warning though – it is quite heavy on the scientific terminology! If you would like to buy the full PDF it is 10 dollars.  (more…)

Filed Under: Research and Trends

App Review: Li in Beijing








Where to buy:

Li in Beijing – appsNminded



Preschool and Elementary

Languages Offered:

Mei-Li is a digital “paper doll” that your child can dress up in different outfits for a variety of occasions. Your child learns basic vocabulary about clothing (i.e. sunglasses, shoes, etc.) to get Mei Li ready for a day at the beach, to head out to school, for cooking in the kitchen, to dance the night away at a party, to celebrate Chinese New Year, to play music, to hang out with friends or to go to bed. (more…)

Filed Under: App Reviews

App Review: Feed Me


App Review: Feed me










Developer: Pencilbot Preschool

Age: Preschool and Early Elementary 

Languages Offered: US English, UK English, Chinese, Japanese, Korean, Mexican Spanish, French, German, Italian, Arabic, Russian or Hindi

A cute purple monster thinks up a “question” and the child needs to choose the correct answer from three choices.

This app is probably our favorite. The questions reinforce language acquisition by asking from all different categories such as color, number, shape, patterns, math, and others. My child loves the concept of “feeding” this character and does not realize that she is learning at the same time. If the child needs a break from answering questions, she can poke the monster and enjoy a series of cute animations. (more…)

Filed Under: App Reviews, Games to Learn a Second Language
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